The One Thing Necessary



Thursday November 7, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time


Reading (Philippians 3:3-8a) Gospel (St. Luke 15:1-10)


Our Lord tells us that in Heaven there will be more rejoicing over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine people who have no need to repent. And He gives us these parables about something that was lost and then was found, and the rejoicing over what was found. Saint Paul speaks about the same thing in the first reading that we heard from his Letter to the Philippians. He tells us that he has learned to count everything as loss, that no matter what gains he had made through his observance of the law, he now considers it loss because of the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ. And so Saint Paul, who tells us that he was blameless with regard to righteousness according to the law because he lived out the traditions of his ancestors so perfectly in his Pharisaical manner, now tells us that all of that is loss.


But instead of being upset because he lost it, he is rejoicing because he lost it, because what he found was not what he had lost but he found something that he was actually looking for without knowing it. He had put aside the Old Covenant for the New; He had put aside the idea of righteousness based on the law for the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, a righteousness based on love of God. Saint Paul then tells us that each one of us is the circumcision, which means that we are children of God. We are the ones who are members of the New Covenant. We are children of Abraham by faith, not simply because of a mark on the flesh. Therefore, we share the faith of Abraham, and in doing so we are members of Jesus Christ.


What we need to recognize is the exact same thing that Saint Paul did: that anything we try to grasp on our own, anything we are looking for from this world, we have to learn to consider loss, because in the light of Jesus Christ and the light of eternal life, what difference does it make? Since we cannot take it with us anyway, why are we making such an effort to scramble for it? Again, we obviously need the necessities of life but what we also need more than anything is the necessity of eternal life. There is only one thing necessary for eternal life, and that is Jesus Christ.


So we need to have the Lord. But we need to have the Lord as He wants to be had, not the way that we necessarily think He ought to be had, because for most of us that is just having Jesus the way that we have anything else in our life. But it cannot be that way because Jesus is not like anything else in our life. He needs to be the center of our lives. As we gain more knowledge and more love of the Lord, we will rejoice more and more, and so will all the angels in Heaven, as Our Lord told us, because what had been lost has now been found. It is not that we have lost something because for most of us we did not even know we had it! At least the man with the sheep knew that he lost one when he counted them. But if we do not know the love of Christ, if we do not know the working of the Holy Spirit within our lives, if we do not know the knowledge of the Lord, we cannot say that we have lost it because we never had it.


That is what Saint Paul recognizes then. It is all the things he thought he had that he rejoices because he lost, because he found the one thing that was most important, the true pearl of great value, the hidden treasure, the treasure which actually is already right there in the heart of each and every one of us. The Trinity dwells within and Jesus Christ is right there at the very core of our being. But what we need to do is to lose everything else that is in the way so that we can find Jesus, so that we too, with Saint Paul, will be able to rejoice in the fact that we have lost all the stuff that we thought we had gained. And, with the angels, we will be able to rejoice abundantly because we have found the one thing that was necessary; we have found Jesus and the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ and the righteousness which is ours, based not on the flesh but in faith and in the Holy Spirit, Who inspires that faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, the surpassing knowledge of Christ, which is greater than anything and everything else in this world. It is the only one thing that is truly necessary: to know Jesus Christ, and God, Who sent Him.


* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.