Wednesday July 10, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:1-7)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea, we hear some words which are quoted also by Our Lord, that is, "They shall cry to the mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall upon us!'" The Lord tells us that is what is going to happen when the people see the chastisement, the purification, that the Lord is going to inflict upon the world. And He says, "If they do this when the wood is green, what are they going to do when it is dry?" They are already calling for these sorts of things back in the time of Hosea. They called for that in the time of the Lord; it was not yet the time, but they were looking for these sorts of things to happen. It is because they were looking suddenly at God and they were seeing that what they had done was strayed from Him.
So we need to look to the next level and ask, "What was it that made them stray?" Our Lord tells us it is simply this: "The more abundant its fruit, the more altars they built; the more productive the land, the more sacred pillars they set up." In other words, the wealthier they became, the further they wandered from God. They set up false gods. They decided that because things were going so well this must be because of some false god, and so they were setting up sacred pillars and altars to false gods all over the place. There were altars to false gods that they set up, ringing Jerusalem in an entire circle around the city, so the people could worship the false gods. They had set up places on the mountains so the people could worship false gods.
Just look around in our own country where wealth is abundant and ask yourself what is happening to people's faith. We live in what can only be called a neopagan society now. We have witchcraft that is on the rise in endemic proportions. We have New Age practices going on all over the place. We have people worshiping anything and everything, and they are falling away from the true God because they are putting their trust in money and not in God. They are putting their trust in wealth and materialism instead of in the Lord. And so, we are no different: The more wealthy we become, the more altars and high places and sacred pillars we set up. Maybe they are not literally altars out in the public to some false god, but all we need to do is look at what people are doing. Just travel around the Twin Cities or any other area and you are going to find all kinds of pagan things now because pagan gods are into wealth. Pagan gods are into all of the things of the self. You can have your cake and eat it too - all you need to do is be a New Ager. You want to have mysticism (whatever they think that means)? Become a New Ager. You do not even have to pray or do penance; you can be a mystic tomorrow. It is the easy way. It is the way of the false gods. It is the way that people who live in luxury like things. It is not the way of the Lord our God. God certainly allows for some people to have wealth, but that is so they will be able to use that for the good of others, so they can help those who are poor rather than just being self-seeking about it.
But we need to look at our own selves. It is not a matter of looking around judgmentally at somebody else; we need to recognize the truth of what is happening. We need to ask ourselves, "Where have our hearts strayed? Where have we set up false altars and sacred pillars to false gods?" Not that we are actually out getting involved in false worship, but the reality is that if we are putting ourselves into the worship of something else, if we are making something else so important, we have a divided heart. Are we giving God lip service while our hearts are focused on something else? Is there something else that is so critically important to us that God takes the back seat sometimes? Those are our sacred pillars. Those are our false altars. That is where we get into false worship, and it can be very, very subtle. It does not have to be blatant like these people that are out worshiping "The Goddess" as they call her, or getting into the New Age practices; we have plenty of opportunities in our own lives. And the thing is that when the Day of the Lord arrives, if our hearts are divided, it is going to be us saying to the mountains, "Cover us!" and to the hills, "Fall upon us!" That will not be a pleasant day for us if our hearts are not true to the Lord. So we need to take a very, very clear and honest inventory of our own lives and ask ourselves about our own priorities and where it is that we have allowed ourselves to stray even a little bit from the Lord, because that is always the way it begins: You start a little and then continue to go further. We need to get our hearts back on the Lord so that they will be true to Him, and - no matter what - we are not going to stray from the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.