Friday June 21, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:19-23)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, instructing us to store up treasure in Heaven rather than anything on earth gives to us a very important lesson that we need to consider. He tells us that the eye is the lamp of the body; and if the eye is good the body will be filled with light, but if the eye is bad it will be filled with darkness. Then He says, "If your light is darkness, how dark it will be." In other words, we look around and we see the people whose lives focus on sin. The very thing they revel in, what they enjoy, what they look forward to the most, is something which is sinful. They are throwing themselves into darkness, plunged headlong into it, and they do not even realize it. This is what Our Lord is talking about. How dark the darkness is - so dark that they do not even realize they are in the darkness because the devil has them completely convinced that darkness is light and light is darkness.
Those who have come out of that sort of thing and have had a conversion realize how dark it was. When you choose Christ and you choose to live the right way then you begin to see that what you used to consider darkness is brilliant. It is complete light because it is truth and it is beauty and it is goodness. The things that used to be considered light, the things that we would look forward to, the things we would enjoy, and the things that we would put as the priorities, suddenly, we realize just how dark and filthy they are.
But even beyond that, we can look at how empty they are and see that these were the kinds of treasures we ourselves used to try to store up - whatever it was. [For instance], the "American Way" that we lived for the weekend: Five days out of the week are spent preparing for one and then the next day is spent recovering from it; then you move on to five more days of preparing for one day. And for what? So that you can revel in the darkness. The whole thing is about darkness. It is empty; it is worthless; it is here one minute and it is gone the next. Yet the devil convinces people that this is good, that this is wonderful, that this is exciting, that this is light, and that this is what we should center our lives around. But anyone who can look back at anything like that realizes it is complete emptiness, total darkness, and devoid of anything. We need to be able to understand that. When our Lord talks about how moth and decay destroy and thieves break in and steal, those are material things; but even on the spiritual level, we realize it is even worse because it is not moths and decay that are destroying it, it is we ourselves who have chosen to destroy our own souls, to choose darkness and sin and filth and vile things. We see what we have done to ourselves.
But in choosing light, in choosing truth, in choosing Jesus Christ and putting Him as the priority and living our lives as spiritual lives, then we are allowing our souls to grow and to become brilliant. And it is something that no one can take away. It does not matter what they try to do to us; they cannot remove what the Lord has placed in our souls. The only person who can remove what is there is ourselves, and that is true of either the light or the darkness. If we are in sin, we need to reject it; and if we are in the light, only we are the ones who can choose darkness. We have that clear dichotomy: the Lord and the truth and goodness are light, and it is those things - the works of charity and all of the virtues - that are going to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven; it is all of the worldly, selfish things that are going to be empty and dark, and they are going to be the treasures of earth. They are going to pass away; but more than passing away, they lead us the wrong direction.
And so, we have the light. The eyes of the soul work just fine: We know what truth is and we know what lies are. We know the falsehoods; we know the darkness; we know the light. Now the choice is entirely ours of which way we are going to choose. If we choose the darkness, how dark it is going to be for eternity. But if we choose the light, not only do we have the joy and the peace of doing what is right here and growing in holiness, but we will have the brilliance of light - the life of Jesus Christ in our souls - forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.