February 11, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 1:20-2:4a) Gospel (St. Mark 7:1-13)
In the first reading this morning from the Book of Genesis, we have a very important point which I never tire of pointing out to people because it is so critical, especially for our day, and that is to note that on the first five and a half days of creation God looked at what He had made and saw that it was good. Then He created us and looked at all of creation and saw that it was very good. It was no longer just “good”. Even after having created all the animals, He saw that it was good; then He created us in His own image and likeness and all of creation was elevated to a new level of dignity and became very good.
That is the nature of the human person. Human nature, by creation, is very good, and that cannot change. What the non-Catholic denominations teach is that our nature, with Original Sin, was corrupted and it became evil. Now keep in mind that not even Satan’s nature was changed when he fell; and if that is the case, ours certainly did not change either. But we need only to think for a moment of what happens if our nature has changed: It means that we are no longer human because we have a nature which is not human. God created us with a human nature, and if we no longer have that nature then we are something other than human. And if we are not human, then we are not saved. It is just that simple.
So, by nature, each one of us is very good. We have a real problem trying to accept that because we look at what we do and we say, “That’s not very good.” And indeed it is not. Many things that we do are not very good but that does not mean that we as persons – by our nature – are not good. We need to keep that distinction very clear. Again, Satan’s nature is still the way God created it; it is good. It is an angelic nature and it is good. It is his will that is corrupted against God; it is not his nature. And so each one of us shares a human nature and each one of us by nature is very good because that is the way God created us.
We also see in the first reading the very first commandment that God gave to humanity, that is, Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. The very first commandment, it tells us something about the importance of that commandment when God highlights it as the first thing. Now put that in context with the Gospel reading today where Jesus condemns the Pharisees for handing on as doctrine mere human traditions and for making what is a man-made tradition more important than what God has taught. Just think of our society today: “Two children and that’s it – no more. Get yourself taken care of, or you take contraceptives or whatever it is, just make sure you don’t have any more than two kids.” That is not what God said: “Two babies and you’re out.” He said, Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.
In our society, we are not upholding God’s commandment. We are passing on as doctrine mere human tradition. We actually have priests now who apologize to people for the teaching of the Catholic Church, for forcing women to have babies. We have priests who are telling people that it is okay to contracept because, after all, more than two babies would just be a real hardship and a problem for them. It is a total lack of trust in God, and it is a denial of the Word of God. It is a passing on of mere human tradition as something which they have made into doctrine. And it is to be condemned because it must be: It is not what God has taught.
We need to look at that within our own attitude. How much have we been influenced by the attitude of our society? We need to make sure that we are looking at what God has created. First of all, our own goodness – which most of us do not believe because we live in basically a Protestant society and so it has not been taught to us that we are good – indeed very good. Most of us think we are junk, we are worthless, we are rotten, we are no good. That is not what God teaches; it is not what the Word of God says; and it is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. So, once again, mere human tradition is being passed on as doctrine and many people are buying into it. And, following from it, we deny the first commandment of God and we refuse to accept the Word of God.
So we need to look at our attitude and ask ourselves, “If we were to stand before the Lord today, would we be condemned for nullifying the Word of God in favor of mere human tradition? Or are we truly accepting the Word of God in all of its implications, accepting our dignity and all that follows from it?”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.