Monday December 2, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 2:1-5) Gospel (St. Matthew 8:5-11)
In the reading today, we hear again about the mountain of the Lord. We have seen many times in the past that that mountain is Jesus Himself, the one spoken of in the prophet Daniel, and that He is the one to Whom all the nations are to come because from there instruction will go forth and the word of the Lord, and, of course, He is the Word of the Lord who instructs us Himself. He draws us to Himself. He calls us to holiness. He calls us to the temple, which is Himself, and to be living stones in that temple of the Lord, as Saint Paul speaks of.
Yet, at the same time, Our Lord warns us in the Gospel reading – and the Church gives us this Gospel reading right from the very beginning reminding us that not everybody is going to be able to be there. The Lord says, regarding the centurion, “I have not found in anyone in Israel this kind of faith.” And then goes on to say, “Many will come from the east and from the west and they will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of Heaven.” So it is not necessarily the people we think that are going to be there.
On Friday, I had mentioned in the homily that there are many, many, many millions of Christian people who are totally duped into thinking the wrong things about the Lord. They do not think they have to do anything to be able to get to Heaven, but just simply to believe that Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior. Now we see the other side. There are lots of Catholics who know what the truth is and refuse to live it. Neither will they be in the kingdom of Heaven because we knew what we were supposed to do. We heard in the reading on Friday from the Book of Revelation that we are going to be judged according to our deeds. Here we see the other element of it and that is the faith. And it is not just this “fiducial faith”, as the Protestants would call it, that says all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you are going straight to Heaven. We need to have faith like the centurion who said, “Just say the word and it will be done.” He believed absolutely and he did not doubt. He told the Lord, “You don’t need to come to my house, just say the word and my servant will be healed,” which, of course, we recognize are the words we say right before Holy Communion with a slight change: Only say the word and my soul shall be healed. The Lord does not need to be physically present because it was at His word that the heavens and the earth were made, and everything else that exists. They were all made for Him and they were all made through Him. He is the Word spoken in all eternity through which all creation came to be. At His word, whatever He speaks happens.
So we have to have that same kind of faith, but then we have to act upon it. And the way we act upon it is by living lives of charity, living lives of good works that the Lord requires. It is to follow the example that He Himself lays out. If we are going to be called to this mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the Lord, then we have to realize that we have to listen to His instruction, we have to listen to His word, and we need to put it into practice. It is not enough to say, “I believe in the temple and the mountain and that that is Jesus.” Praise God you can believe that! But what good does it do to be able to point to somebody and say, “There’s the temple,” if you do not go there yourself and you do not pay any attention to it? It is one thing to use it as a showpiece and say, “Look at this temple. Isn’t it beautiful?” But it is another to say that instruction comes forth and the Word of the Lord. That is why we stream toward it, that is the real beauty that is coming forth from the temple of the Lord, and that is why we need to be in that temple. Not because of anything external but because of the truth. And it is the whole truth – not just the doctrinal truths but also the moral truths and the fact that we are called to holiness, called to good works, called to change our lives to become like that of Jesus. That is the truth that comes forth.
So we need to believe. We need to have that faith and then we need to act upon it. Otherwise, there are going to be many from the east and the west that are going to be there and they will be at the banquet in the kingdom. This pagan centurion, the Lord was letting us know, was in fact going to be in the kingdom of Heaven. And He was also letting the people around Him know that, because of their lack of faith, they would not. So too for us, there is no doubt that we have faith in Jesus, that is, in who He is; it is a question now of whether we are putting that faith into practice. If we claim to believe in Him we need to act upon it, otherwise, we will find ourselves outside of the banquet while many who we did not expect from east and west will be present at the Banquet of the Lord, and we will be excluded. If we want to be in that banquet, we need to believe and we need to practice what we profess.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.