Monday September 30, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Job 1:6-22) Gospel (St. Luke 9:46-50)
In the readings today, there are a couple of things we need to look at. First of all, it is the reality of a being whom we call Satan. We live in a scientific and rationalistic society, and among those who want to follow the ideas of science and psychiatry what we find is an outright rejection of Satan. And there is nothing Satan would want more than that, because if he does not exist in our minds then he can do anything he wants, and we are not going to assume it is him anyway because we have determined that he does not exist so he cannot do anything.
Satan is real. Satan was the highest angel whom God created, and in his arrogance he fell. We do not know exactly what it was that caused his fall, but the saints of the past have generally assumed it was on the Incarnation and that he was asked to worship a little baby, a human baby, and he could not accept that God would be man. He knew in his mind - everything necessary was shown to him as it was to the other angels - but he could not accept that a nature lower than his would be God, and he refused. It was his pride, it was his arrogance that got him in trouble.
That is exactly the way he tempted Adam and Eve, and it is exactly the way he continues to tempt us. He is the Seducer; He is the Tempter. It is what his name means and that is what he is all about. His task was, initially, to be able to tempt so that people would have a choice. Love is a choice. If there were no temptation we would not be able to enter into Heaven because we would not be able to make the choice for or against God. But now, in his fallen state, he is evil. His will is turned completely against God. And evil, by its nature, does not want to be alone - "Misery loves company," as the old saying says. There is no one, absolutely no one, more miserable than Satan because there is no one who knew God more perfectly by nature and he chose against Him.
He wanted to be God himself, which is exactly, again, how he tempted Adam and Eve: "You will be like God." They already were, and so are we. But he tempts us in the exact same way: "You don't need to follow the Ten Commandments. You don't need to follow what the Church teaches. The Church is against you. These people are just a bunch of old men over in Rome; what do they know about society and America? You don't need to follow that stuff! We're more enlightened than that. We can be God. We don't need any other rules beyond what we can make up for ourselves."
But then we have the other side of it in the Gospel, and Jesus tells us very clearly that the one who is the least of all is the one who is the greatest among you. Jesus came into this world and made Himself the least. He made Himself the slave of all and He came to serve. If we want to be arrogant, if we want to be puffed up with pride, if we want to do it our own way and not God's way, we are following Satan - the ultimate in being a loser. He has lost everything trying to gain everything for himself. The Lord asked one day, "What profit does it show a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process?" The only thing, ultimately, that is important is the salvation of your soul. Who cares how much money you have? Who cares how fancy a house or car you have, or whatever it is? Who cares about the prestige or anything else? All that matters is the salvation of your soul. Remember the saying of Mother Theresa: "God doesn't care that we are successful; He cares that we are faithful."
We need to be humble. We need to be small. If our pride and our arrogance are getting in the way then we are giving in to Satan, and we need to reject that. We need to place ourselves beneath others, as Saint Paul told us in the readings yesterday. We need to be humble. We need to be small. We need to serve. Otherwise, we are giving in to the devil, who wants us to be able to be puffed up and filled with ourselves and to become just like him. That is his lie: "You can be like God." We already are. What he wants is that we can be like Satan, and that is what we need to reject. The glamour of sin, all that is involved with it, everything that tempts us away from God, everything that draws us into the self, that is what we must be rejecting because that is Satan's work.
We need to keep our hearts focused on Jesus Christ. The Lord told us how we are to live: to love God and to love neighbor. In that, Satan is defeated. He was defeated in that on the Cross and he is defeated in that in each one of our lives. So the dichotomy is very clear. If we want to be God, if we want to make the rules, if we do not want to do it God's way, we can be like Satan and we can be with him forever. If we want to be like Jesus, be humble, be small and serve, if we want to keep our focus on God and not on self, then we are on the right track. Then we choose Jesus and we can be with Him now, united with Him in this life, and be with Him for eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.