Tuesday July 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:32-38)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea, we hear: "Though they offer sacrifice, immolate flesh and eat it, the Lord is not pleased with them. He will still remember their guilt and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt." These are not pleasant words to hear because we would think if one is offering sacrifice to the Lord that the Lord is going to be pleased. So we have to ask ourselves, "Why would the Lord not be pleased with what these people are doing?" And it is told right above. It says, "When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin for him. Though I gave him My ordinances, they are considered as a stranger's." In other words, they are going through the external motions - they are offering sacrifice to the Lord - but they do not care about the Lord. They are not paying attention to His ordinances and on the very altars they have built to make expiation to the Lord, they are offering false sacrifice. Their altars have become an occasion of sin for them.
It would be like being in the state of mortal sin, going to Mass, receiving Holy Communion and saying, "Well, the Lord must be very pleased because I went to Mass and Communion today." Going to Mass and Communion became an occasion of sin because you committed sacrilege, and the Lord would not be pleased with such a thing. Certainly, He would be pleased if you were at Mass - but not receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. That is the point he is making with this.
But it goes even beyond that because He talks about how He has written for them His many ordinances but they treat them like a stranger's. For ourselves too, then, we have to ask, "How are we dealing with what the Lord has asked of us? Are we doing what He wants of us? Are we trying to live our lives according to His Will? Are we trying to change our lives so we are living truly holy lives that will be pleasing to God?" Then, being at Mass and receiving Holy Communion will be very pleasing to Him. But if we show up at Mass and receive Him in Holy Communion with absolutely no intention at all of changing our lives [but with the intention] of going out as soon as we leave from Mass and living a wretched life - going off to work and cheating, stealing, swindling, and doing all kinds of horrible things to other people, but then we come to Mass and look real pious - what good is it? If we go to Confession with absolutely no intention of amending our lives, it is a sacrilege. There has to be intent to change and there has to be an attempt to change.
Now, God knows that none of us is perfect and He does not expect that we are going to be perfect when we walk out of the confessional or when we walk into Mass. But what He does expect is that we are going to be trying, that we are going to be putting forth a good faith effort to try to change our lives and to try to live according to His Will, according to His ordinances, that we will recognize the infinite dignity of the Sacrifice which is offered on the altar, and that we are going to try to change our lives to be in conformity with that Sacrifice. That is what He is asking of us. Otherwise, the same would have to be said for us: that even though He has given us His many ordinances, we treat them like a stranger's; and even though we have built many altars to expiate for sin, our altars become an occasion of sin for us. That is not what we want. We want to make sure that we are conforming ourselves to the Lord's ordinances and that our altars are truly a means of the expiation of sin and growth in holiness for us. But the only one who can make that decision is ourselves. That has to be made in the depths of our hearts: the decision to accept God's Word and the decision to change our lives to conform ourselves to His ordinances and to His Sacrifice offered on His altar.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.