Tuesday October 8, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Galatians 1:13-24) Gospel (St. Luke 10:38-42)
Today we see this dichotomy between Martha's anxiety and worry about so many things and Mary, on the other hand, as Our Lord says, "choosing the better part" and sitting at His feet listening to His words. We need also, then, to look at our own selves and ask ourselves if we do not in fact become very anxious and worried about many things. How many worry about money? How many are anxious about their jobs or their kids (or whatever the case might be) and all the anxieties and all the worries and all the things that grip us and just keep us focused on ourselves? That is the trick of the devil. Even Saint Paul tells us that what he was doing was being focused on the traditions of his ancestors, and therefore, he was zealous in trying to destroy the Church. He was not truly focused on God; he was focused on the external things and was worried and anxious.
Yet he tells us that when God - who had set him apart from his mother's womb even though Saint Paul did not know it - called him to the work that he was to do, he said what he did was to go into Arabia where he could pray. Remember, he told the Galatians in the reading we heard yesterday that the Gospel he was preaching did not come from any human being, but rather, by revelation from Jesus Christ. And so, the Lord revealed to him along the way to Damascus who He was, but it did not stop there. While we do not ever hear from Saint Paul about what these revelations were all about, he does tell us that he was granted some extraordinary revelations which is why he was even given a thorn in the side (an angel from Satan) to keep him from being conceited about his extraordinary revelations. But it was about focusing on the Lord.
So we see the shift in Saint Paul from focusing on the external things to focusing on the one thing necessary. He put his focus on Jesus Christ, and then after three years he went out and began preaching the Gospel that he [had been] trying to destroy, because he was now focusing on what was truly important. Then he could go out and be whipped, beaten, shipwrecked, and all the other things that happened to him, and it did not bother him. He could say, "It doesn't matter to me whether I live or die, because death means Christ but life means productive toil." It did not matter to him; whatever God wanted was important. He did not care about the external things. He said, "I've learned how to eat well or to go hungry, to be clothed or to be naked, to have a good night's sleep or to have none at all." It did not matter to him. He had just simply learned how to deal with any of the external things because he kept his focus on the Lord.
That is for us as well, especially in our day with all the things going on in the Church and in the world. Again, I assure you that it is only going to get worse on both fronts. Do not worry about it. It is the Lord's Church and, thanks be to God, He is starting to purify it. That's what is going on. Do not let it shake your faith; let it encourage it. Let it strengthen your faith, because look at 1 Peter where he says that the purification begins in the house of the Lord. That is where it is beginning - at the altar of the Lord. So this is good news that it is happening. The scandals have been there for years, the fact that they are only coming out now and shaking people's faith, just the opposite should be happening. It should be bolstering our faith because the Lord is purifying His Church. And it is going to go out from the altar of the Lord, through the Church, and out into the world. Things are going to get very ugly, but if we keep our focus on Christ it does not matter what happens. If we look at all the external things, we are going to become worried and anxious because we cannot control it; and that is a good thing that we cannot control it because the Lord is in control.
So for us, we need to learn from both Saint Paul and Saint Mary and the lesson that Martha learned. Do not be worried and anxious about many things. There is only one thing that is necessary, and that is to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and do not take the focus off of Him. Otherwise, we become just like Saint Peter who started focusing on the wind and the waves instead of on Jesus and he began to sink. As long as his focus was on the Lord, he walked on the water; no matter how turbulent it was, he was walking on top of it. But as soon as he started noticing the turbulence, he began to sink. Just keep the focus on the Lord; it is the only thing that matters. Let Him worry about the rest of it. He has got it all under control; we do not have to worry about a thing. Only one thing is necessary, and that is to keep the focus on Jesus and learn from Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.