Thursday September 12, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 8:1b-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Luke 6:27-38)
Saint Paul in the first reading today makes a very important distinction for us, he says, "Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up," and then goes on to say, "If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought. But if one loves God, that person is known by God." That is the real kind of knowledge we need to have. To have book knowledge may be a very good and important thing, but it can lead, as we all know, to a lot of pride, to how much knowledge we have and how much we are able to do on our own and so on. Obviously, God gave us an intellect and He wants us to use it, but He does not want us to use it against Him or against our own selves.
It is always that balance that we have to be looking for, and the balance is going to be found in charity, because in charity we will use the knowledge that we have for the good of others. Not to let them know how much we know, not to have any power or control over them, but to serve others, to be able to use the ability God has given us to build others up. Charity, remember, always seeks the good of the other.
And the Lord tells us in the Gospel reading exactly what that charity has to be like: to love our enemies. To love those who love us is of absolutely no value to us as far as the spiritual life goes; the Lord tells us, "Sinners do the same." Do not expect anything from God if all you do is love the people who already love you. What good is that? Obviously, it is important and we need to have the people around us who love us to help us stay on the right track and to build us up and so on, but what the Lord is asking of us is to love even those who do not love us, to love even those who might hate us. Now that is not the worldly way of dealing with things, but it is the Christian way of dealing with things. So He asks us to pray for those who persecute us. He asks us to do good to those who do not do good to us. He asks us to do good to others without expecting anything in return.
That, again, is going to be charity. If you are doing something expecting something in return, then it is selfish; you are doing it for what you are going to be able to get out of it. But the Lord says, "Give without expecting anything in return, then you will be just like God." God gives to the ungrateful. He gives to those who hate Him. He still provides for them, and He is not going to expect anything in return. Now, for us, we know we have to give back in return to God, as well as to those from whom we might borrow or whatever, but it is a difference of recognizing that as a matter of justice we owe this as opposed to simply expecting it from somebody else. And so, out of charity from ourselves, we recognize that we have to give to those who give to us; that is a matter of charity as well. But with regards to those to whom we give, to expect something in return says that we are not practicing the fullness of charity.
Our Lord tells us, then, at the end of the Gospel reading today that the measure we use to measure with is the measure that is going to be used against us - or the measure that is going to be used to measure us, if you want to think of it that way. We can look at that and ask ourselves, "How generous are we? How charitable are we? How are we loving those who do not love us?" The measure that God is going to use when He judges us is the measure we use in dealing with others. If we want mercy, if we want charity, if we want the generosity of the Lord, then we have to be the ones who are practicing those things so that those around us are going to be able to experience through us the love of God. Saint Paul made that very clear: "There is only one God for Whom we exist, and there is only one Lord through Whom we exist." Therefore, He should be found in us and through us. He should be seen by others acting and living and being - in us and through us - because He is the One for Whom and through Whom we exist.
So that is what we need to look at: the measure that we use in dealing with others. Is it the measure of God Himself or have we become stingy? Have we closed our hearts to others because we are being selfish? Then we are choosing a measure other than the measure of God Himself. The Lord is asking us to open our hearts to allow Him into our hearts and to allow Him to love others in us and through us - indeed, even to love God in us and through us so that the love with which we love others will be the very love of God Himself because it is God who will be the One acting and loving within each one of us. Then the measure with which we will be measured will be the love of God Himself. And when that is the measure, then we are guaranteed of mercy, we are guaranteed of the generosity and the love of God. That is the measure we desire for ourselves; consequently, it is the measure we must use when loving others.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.