Tuesday September 10, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 6:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-19)
Saint Paul in speaking to the Corinthians today chastises them, first of all, for suing one another as Christian people and, secondly, by saying, "If there is a problem between two of you, why are you bringing it to non-Christians? Why are you bringing it to unjust people?" He tells us that the holy ones are going to judge the world and, in fact, are even going to judge angels. He said, "So why do you think you are unable to find somebody among your own number to be able to judge even the lowest things?"
The problem has to do with the justice and the holy ones. As we know, just because somebody has been baptized and is a member of Jesus Christ, it does not necessarily mean that they accept that dignity. Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that they live a holy life. But Saint Paul makes it very clear that because we have been washed clean and we have been made members of Christ it is expected of us, it is incumbent upon us, to live holy lives, to be truly seeking to live justice in our lives. And that is something that is critical in this world, because it is so easy for us to start out by rounding off the corners a little bit and saying, "Well, it's not that bad. It's not as bad as what most people are doing. I'm doing better than most everybody else." But that cannot be our standard. The standard is Jesus Christ, and that is where we need to be looking. Where we need to compare ourselves is to the Lord, not to the worldly, but to Jesus Himself. But this point he is also making about finding somebody from our own selves who would be able to judge, we need to ask ourselves even with that about the holiness that is expected of us. Remember when the disciples were going to pick deacons to be able to serve table, the first requirement was that they had to be holy. They had to have a reputation for prayer and holiness before they would be able to take on that task. How much more should that be the case if somebody is going to be judging others and making judgments regarding the law.
Then Saint Paul even goes beyond that and says, "How is it possible that you are even suing one another? Wouldn't it be better to put up with injustice?" In our society, which is suit happy, this is something which does not make a whole lot of sense to us: to put up with injustice. But then we look at Jesus and we are grateful and we thank him for putting up with the injustice, the greatest injustice that humanity has ever known. We look at Him and say, "Well, that's because He was so just that He was willing to accept the injustice," and we are grateful to Him for that. Yet when it comes to ourselves, as members of Jesus Christ, somehow we have got this odd idea that we do not need to do that. But remember He told us that we are to love as we have been loved - and that was to go to the Cross and accept the injustice and the shame and everything else that went with it, to be able to forgive those who have done wrong, as He did on the Cross. If we were truly holy, we would need to ask ourselves, "Would I be acting the way that I do?" There are some injustices that have to be addressed, but it is a question of how. And there are many, many injustices in our lives that we would be much better off just simply accepting and allowing them to go because God allows them in order to make us holy, in order to help us to grow and become more Christ-like. Those are difficult things for many of us but that is the means that God has chosen, as He has demonstrated in His own Son.
And so that is something we need to think about. First of all, if there is something between two people, shouldn't we be able to find someone who is truly holy that would be able to make a judgment so that it is not going to be an unjust individual who has demonstrated himself or herself to be unjust - and then we are going to go to them and expect that they are going to make a just decision? Highly unlikely. And beyond that, for our own selves, to be able to look at our own actions and ask ourselves, "What is our own reaction to injustice? How do we deal with injustice in our lives? Do we want to get even? Do we want to do something unjust in return? Or do we seek to use it to help us to grow in holiness? Do we turn to God and ask Him what is His Will with regards to this unjust situation? Are we willing to forgive the other person? Are we willing to offer things up? Are we willing to be able to accept the injustices and unite them with the injustice which Christ accepted in order to justify each one of us?" Those are some questions that each one of us needs to look at very seriously.
The ultimate question is, are we really striving to be holy ones? If the holy ones are going to judge the world, and the unjust will have no part of the kingdom of God, then we need to look very squarely at ourselves and ask ourselves, "Are we among the unjust or are we really striving to be holy?" That is the critical question. Not only could we not find someone who was holy to make a judgment, but are we trying ourselves to become holy? Are we truly working to become holy in our own lives so that we will be among those holy ones who will one day judge the world?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.