Friday July 5, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Amos 8:4-6, 9-12) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Amos, we hear the words that tell us precisely what happened at the moment of the Crucifixion. He says, "On that day I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations. I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth and make every head bald. I will make them mourn as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end." At the moment that Our Lord died on the Cross we know there was the eclipse of the sun and at noontime darkness covered the land. At that moment, then, this feast that they were about to celebrate of the Passover was suddenly turned into lamentation. More than that, for those who had put Our Lord to death, their day, indeed, was brought to a bitter end; from that point forward everything was finished. The Lord had started something entirely new, and so the old was passing away and the new had begun.
Now, we need to be able to look at this for ourselves. We can ask: Do we really recognize what occurred on that day that Our Lord was on the Cross for us? It is not a matter of whether we have read the accounts and we know that it became dark at midday. But have we felt the mourning? Have we recognized the lamentation? Have we felt in the depths of our hearts what the Lord has done for us? The importance of those questions is a very simple one. For those who recognized their smallness, their weakness, and their sinfulness, they saw the Crucifixion in one way. For those who were caught up in their arrogance and self-righteousness, they saw the Crucifixion as something entirely different. So too for us, we can look at the Crucifixion in an objective way and we can say, "Well, wasn't it nice that Jesus died for us?" But if we do not let it in, then we are precisely the ones Our Lord speaks of in the Gospel when He says that He came to call the sinners, not the self-righteous. If we do not need Jesus to die for us, we do not need the Physician; we can do it all by ourselves is what we think. We are the self-righteous ones, the ones who looked to the Crucifixion of Jesus and wagged their heads, sneered at Him, made fun of Him, and walked away untouched by what had happened. They went to celebrate the Passover feast in joy because the One who was bothering their consciences was gone. But, of course, we know that all of that turned on them. And the same is going to be true for anyone else who does not accept the Lord.
The day of the Lord is coming, and we [need to] recognize that we are sinners, that we are the ones who are spiritually sick, and that we need a doctor. We are in need of the Physician. It is not something that we can just sit back and keep at an arm's distance; if we do not let it in, we have no part of Him. And so it is not a matter of being an objective observer and being able to read the Gospel passages and know that it became dark at midday before Jesus gave His soul over to His heavenly Father. We need to recognize that the darkness is within and that the only way that darkness is going to be scattered is when we accept Our Lord and we allow Him into our hearts so that He will be the light in the midst of our darkness. It is not something we can do ourselves. We cannot save ourselves; we cannot even do much to help ourselves; we are dependent on the Lord. He came to call sinners. He sat down with those who were sinners and people who had violated the law and He preached the truth.
All you have to do again is listen to those words that God spoke through Amos. He says that He is sending a famine on the land. It is not going to be a want of food or water, but rather, for hearing the Word of God. Boy, if those words are not being fulfilled in our day where we are dining sumptuously and there is no shortage of food or water but there is certainly a huge shortage for the people of God to hear the Word of God. Darkness is covering this land in broad daylight and people do not even recognize it. They are watching the Crucifixion of the Lord and they have no idea what it means.
We too are watching the Crucifixion of the Lord. Do we recognize it? Are we there at the foot of the Cross because we are sinners? Or are we there to crucify Him and to rejoice that the One who has bothered our conscience is gone? Do we recognize the Word of God in our midst? Or is our heart dying of famine - starvation and thirst - because we refuse to hear the Word of God? That is the question we need to look at. The "darkness is covering the earth, and the thick clouds the people," as Isaiah says. The question has to do not with everybody else, but with us. The Lord came to cal each one of us sinners to Himself. Do we accept it? Are we willing to allow Him to scatter the darkness of our hearts so that in the darkness around us, the light of Christ will shine brightly within us?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.