Thursday January 16, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 3:7-14) Gospel (St. Mark 1:40-45)
We hear in the Gospel reading today that as Our Lord’s reputation spread because of this leper who had been cleansed it became impossible for Our Lord to enter a town openly. Therefore, He had to stay out in deserted places, but even then the people kept coming to Him because they had heard of Him. Now the question has to do with us. How much does Our Lord mean to us? Obviously, on one level, He means everything to us; but on another level, sometimes what happens is that we become kind of lax in our desire to be with Him. It is like anything, I suppose. If one is looking forward to marrying somebody, they are filled with joy and anticipation and looking forward to the day. After a few years of being married, well, going home to the same person does not always seem like such an exciting thing to do. The same thing happens spiritually. Even though we know that Jesus is God, that He is our only hope, and all the other things we can say about Him, well, He is always right there and so we do not pay a whole lot of attention to Him. Just like a spouse, we tend to take Him for granted, which is kind of a backhanded compliment in one sense, but at the same time it is rather an insult. And so we need to make sure we are looking at our own actions.
Saint Paul reminds us that we must take care that we do not have an evil and unfaithful heart so as to forsake the living God. So we can ask ourselves, if we are coming to Mass every morning and we are trying to develop a spiritual life, “Are we slipping back from the Lord at all? Or are we, for instance, just simply saying, ‘Well, I’m getting up every morning and going to Mass, isn’t that good enough?’ but then we do not pay much attention to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?” We are not really developing the prayer life a whole lot beyond that. We are giving a little but not everything. What can happen is that we go through the motions while our heart slips backwards. Remember, in the spiritual life, if we are not moving forward then we are going backward. And so you can ask yourself, as you get up every morning very early to come here, “Am I growing in love with Jesus? Is my zeal, my desire, growing stronger? Or am I just kind of going through the motions because this is what I do every day?”
While that certainly is good and at times in the spiritual life that is about all we can do, as the Lord takes away any kind of consolation and the zeal dries up, then what we need to do is simply force ourselves to get here, to get to prayer, to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to, even if we do not really feel like it. But there are going to be indicators within our lives that things are still improving, that virtue is growing, that we are moving ahead. At the same time, what can happen is that we get into a pattern and just do the same thing day after day without thinking too much about it, and we start slipping backward. The virtue is not growing but getting worse, the desire is growing slack, and zeal has gone out. If that is the case, then rather than a heart that is filled with love and zeal, we have a heart that is becoming that evil and faithless heart that Saint Paul speaks of.
We need to be like those people in the Gospel reading. We need to be willing to go out to find Jesus. We need to do whatever is necessary for us to be able to be with Him. Obviously, we have the duties of our state in life; we cannot be with Him all the time. But we need to make sure He is the priority and when we know about Our Lord that we are going to make sure we are seeking to do His Will, that we are trying to unite ourselves with Him. Not only at a distance to be able to say, “I want to be where He is,” – that is good, but for us that is not enough – we want to be one with Jesus. We do not just want to be where He is; we want to be united with Him. That is the desire our hearts should have. It is certainly the desire of His Sacred Heart and it needs to be the desire of our hearts as well.
Saint Paul says, then, at the end of what we heard in the first reading today, that we have become partners with Christ. It is not just standing outside looking at Him; it is to be a partner with Him, to be united with Him in the same enterprise, and, in this case, to be united in the same Person of Jesus Christ. That is what we have to be about. That is why we need hearts that are filled with zeal and love, not hearts that are growing slack. We want to keep pushing forward so that not only do we know where we can find Him – always Present in the Blessed Sacrament – but we want to unite our hearts with Him – Present in the Blessed Sacrament – so that throughout the day we are one with Him, partners with Him in the work of salvation, doing His Will in everything in our own lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.