January 6, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier  Monday After Epiphany

 

Reading (1 John 3:22-4:6)   Gospel (St. Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25)

 

 

Saint John, in the first reading, tells us that if we are going to do what God commands us to do that we have to love one another just as He told us we have to love one another. And He told us that we are to love one another as He has loved us. Now we know what that means, ultimately, is that He was crucified for us. It means we need to be willing to pour ourselves out for the sake of others. That is not the American Way, which tells us to look out for “Number One” – “Number One”, tragically, is not God, but it is the self in America. And so if we are caught up in ourselves, we cannot love anybody else. We do good things for other people so that we can get something in return. Everything is done for a selfish reason, so even the good that we do really is completely tinged with our pride and selfishness. We are not truly loving our neighbor if we are acting in that kind of a manner.

 

We see also, then, on the practical day-to-day level, beyond just looking at the crucifix and saying, “How is it that I can do that?” – well, we see how we can do it. We hear about Our Lord going around preaching and telling people the truth and then healing all the people. Now, you may look and say, “I don’t have the ability to heal anybody,” but we do have the ability to reach out to them, to listen to them, to be kind to them, to do whatever it is that we can do for somebody else. They brought the Lord people from all over the place and He cured them. He did not turn them away; He did not say, “I don’t have time for you”; He didn’t say, “I’m sorry, I’ve got my own things to do,” because that was the reason for which He came into the world.

 

We need to be very careful at the same time that we do not allow the devil to get in the way of our state in life; after all, Saint John said we have to test every spirit. What the devil is going to do, if you are trying to do what is right, is give to you lots of apparently good things, but that is to keep you from doing what God wants you to do. So you do need to discern it. Just because it looks good does not necessarily mean it comes from God. If the devil came down and stood in your face as a fire-breathing dragon it would be pretty obvious that this is not what God wants you to do, so the devil makes himself look like your friend and he gives you apparently good things to do. You need to be able to discern: “Is this taking me away from the duties of my state in life? Is this in accordance with the Will of God for what I know for a fact He wants me to do?”

 

Jesus, when He dealt with all these people, knew that this was the reason for which He came into the world. It may be that He is going to bring some people into your life that you will need to help. At the same time, if the devil is going to bring those people into your life, it will not seem all that bad at first, but you will notice as you go along that something is just not right. “I’m not able to do the things that I should be doing. My spouse or my children are being neglected while I’m doing all of these other things for this person. This one is taking up all kinds of time or effort that really should be going elsewhere.” Now, we need to be careful that it is not just our selfishness and that we feel like doing something we want to do instead of this other thing that God wants us to do. But usually it becomes pretty evident. As we pray and as we ask the Lord to show us, He will make it clear to us. But we need to be careful that we are seeking God’s Will – not just assuming that we know what His Will is – but praying and asking so that we are completely united to the Will of God and we are not being led astray, that we are testing the spirits to make sure that the things going on in our lives are being led by the Spirit of God.

 

The only way we want to live our lives is in accordance with God’s Will. It is the only way that is going to bring any sense of fulfillment and it is the only way we are going to become saints. So we need to make sure we understand how the devil works. He deceives, but in a very, very subtle way. We have to be sure we are rooted in prayer and seeking the Spirit of God so that we will be led by the Spirit of God and truly be children of God, so that we will be like Christ in all things, loving God and loving neighbor as He commanded.

 

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