Wednesday November 6, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Philippians 2:12-18) Gospel (St. Luke 14:25-33)
We see in the readings today what it is going to require to really be a disciple of the Lord. And we need to ask ourselves, first of all, can we say along with the Philippians what Saint Paul tells us that we should be able to say? That is, that in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation we shine like stars in the world? Now I am not suggesting an arrogant kind of shining, thinking that we are better than everyone else; but rather, are we living in a way that is not like this perverse and crooked generation? We do, after all, live in the most sinful society that the world has ever known. Therefore, if we do not shine in the midst of that in a moral and spiritual sense, there is something very seriously wrong with us, because if we are similar to the world and not so completely different from the world that we stand out not stand out, again, in a singular way or in an arrogant way but in a way that simply says, I am not going to immerse myself in the filth and the mire that is around me, then there is something wrong: we are living just like those around us.
Saint Paul tells us that we need to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. That is not living it out in a worldly way. That is looking at things and recognizing that if things have gone astray, I need to make sure I do not allow myself to be drawn into it, I need to make sure that I am striving for Christ. Am I grumbling? Am I complaining? Those are points that Saint Paul tells us to not do, and he says very clearly that no matter what it is that we do, we are to do it without grumbling or complaining.
The Lord tells us that we have to renounce all of our possessions. He tells us even that we have to go so far as to hate our own lives, as well as our parents, our siblings, our spouses and children, and so on. Not to walk around feeling anything that would violate the Fifth Commandment toward them; we know there are going to be times when you are going to struggle with relationships but that is not what He is talking about. What He is talking about is making sure that our priorities are right and that we are putting God truly as the top priority; otherwise, the Lord tells us we are not worthy of Him. Are we willing to take up our cross and follow the Lord the way that He requires? If the answer to that is no then, again, we are not following after Christ, we are not living the life of Jesus in this world.
That is really what it means to shine like stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation that is, to allow Jesus Christ to live His life in us and through us. And so, all you need to do really is look at your own life and ask very simply, When people see me and the way that I live, do they see Jesus? Do they hear the voice of the Lord? Do they feel the love of Jesus coming forth from me? Do they see the life of the Lord being lived in me and through me? If the answer to that is no and all they see is us, then what we have to say is that we are not shining like stars in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, but rather, we are shining like a perverse and crooked generation where we should be stars.
And if the Lord is not being seen in us, if we are not allowing Him to live His life in us and through us, then we need to change. We need to get rid of whatever is worldly in us and put it to death so that we can live for Christ. We are called to live the Passion of Christ, that is, to put to death in us anything which is not of Christ. And we are called to live the Resurrection of Christ, to allow the life of Jesus to live in us. That is where Saint Paul, then, can say, I share my joy with you, and you should share your joy with me, as he says to the Philippians. If we are living in that Resurrection that is, if the Lord is living in us and through us in His glory then we should be filled with joy because it is the Lord. But if we are not, then He is not. So that is what we can look at. Are we really allowing the Lord to be with us? Or are we giving Him lip service and keeping Him far away? Have our lives changed so that people can see Jesus Christ in us? Or do they simply see us?
That is what we need to be about, not being smug about who we think we are or that we are going straight to Heaven when we die because that is not going to happen for most of us but working out our salvation in fear and trembling, knowing our own weakness so well that with just the slightest temptation we can fall flat on our face, that we can choose something over Jesus, that we can allow ourselves to stand in front of the Lord rather than Him standing in front of us, and we can become just like the perverse and crooked generation in which we live rather than shining like Jesus Christ, the Light than came into the darkness, the Star in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.