Wednesday September 4, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 3:1-9) Gospel (St. Luke 4:38-44)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul is making an important distinction for the people of Corinth, that is, whether we are of the spirit or of the flesh. Now he tells us that these are people who already have the seed planted within them. Paul planted the seed, "and Apollos watered it," he said, "but it is God who provides for the growth." And so it is not a question of whether or not the seed is already planted, whether or not we have faith - but to what degree it has grown. That is what Saint Paul is looking at. Jesus went around and He planted the seed in all the synagogues. The people wanted Him to stay but He said "no" - He had to go to other towns and preach the Good News as well.
For us, now, it is to be able to say that the Word of God has been planted in our souls. We have been baptized into Jesus Christ so there is no doubt about where we stand in that way, but the question is whether or not we are truly living according to the dignity which is ours, whether we are living as spiritual people or whether we are living in the flesh, as Saint Paul says. "In the flesh" does not mean living in the body; obviously, that is the case for all of us. What he means is, are we living a worldly life or are we living a spiritual life? And so he says very simply, "Where there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not in the flesh, walking according to the manner of man?" In other words, when we are doing things that are sinful and selfish that is not the way of Jesus Christ. When we are putting all the focus on the body and when we are putting all the focus on the self that is exactly the opposite of what Jesus did.
Jesus came into this world and He loved. He sought the good of others. He served. He gave. He poured Himself out. He never once sought Himself, never once looked for His own pleasure, for His own desires, or anything else. It was always about giving. That is what we are called to as members of Christ. And that is the measuring stick we can use to ask ourselves to what degree we have become spiritual people. Are we truly giving? Are we truly loving? Are we really seeking the good of the other? Or where is the self? How much self-seeking is there? How much pride? How much jealousy? How much anger? How much bitterness? How much conceit? How much rivalry? You can go right down the list of an examination of conscience and you can say, "How much am I living according to the ways of the flesh as opposed to the ways of the spirit?"
If we are living a life of virtue then we are living according to the way of Christ; then the seed not only has been planted, but it has grown. And then, as Saint Paul would say, we are ready for solid food, for true spiritual teaching. But until then, he says, all that we can handle is milk because we have not developed enough spiritually to be able to handle solid spiritual food. So that is what we need to keep working at. It is not just a matter of saying, "If I can just be a member of Christ." Praise God that we are, and it is a wonderful thing we are baptized into Christ and we share His life. But have we taken on the identity of Christ? Are we allowing Christ to live in us and through us? Are we allowing the life of Christ to be demonstrated in our lives? It is not a matter of looking for the lowest common denominator to see how little we can do and still eke our way in. That is a pretty poor way of looking at things.
But rather, we are called to live as Christ did, Who never sought the minimal manner but always sought the most. He gave everything for us. And then He commanded that, as He has loved us, we are to love. He did not love a little bit - He gave it all. Now He requires that we would do the same. And so we must look very carefully and very intently and very honestly at that question: To what degree has the Spirit taken root in us? How far have we grown? Are we still just babies in the spiritual life who have to be fed on spiritual milk - on the consolations and the fun and the excitement and the good things - or have we grown to the point where we can really accept solid spiritual food, which is the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the only way that leads to life?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.