Thursday February 20, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 9:1-13) Gospel (St. Mark 8:27-33)
In the first reading today, we hear God making His covenant with Noah and with his sons – with all of humanity and all the animals that will follow after – that He will never destroy the entire earth with a flood again, and that the sign, as every covenant has a sign, is going to be the rainbow. “When you see the bow in the sky,” He tells us, “that will be the sign of the covenant.” It is a sign that the bow is pointed away from us rather than toward us and that the wrath of God has been taken away. At the same time, we see, as the Lord establishes this covenant, that He tells us that He is going to demand an accounting for life’s blood, and that will be not only of the animals (if they try to do anything to a person) but of man against man.
Then in the Gospel reading, we hear Our Lord telling us that He is going to have to suffer and be put to death and rise on the third day. And since it was each one of us (as well as every other human person) who is responsible for the death of Our Lord, we have to realize that we will have to account for His Blood. We need then to ask ourselves, “When we are in the presence of the Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, what is our response?” The Lord gave Himself up freely and He offered His Blood for our lives. Are we accepting of the sacrifice that He offered? Do we recognize it and reverence it? Do we have the most profound love and gratefulness for what it is that He has done for us? Do we respond with the proper kind of reverence? Or do we just completely take things for granted? Or, even worse, just simply ignore them? We recognize the presence of the Lord in our midst but all too often it means very little or nothing to us.
As we know, everything flows from the altar of God – everything. Every good in the world flows from the altar of God, from the offering of the sacrifice of Jesus, from the reverence that we give to that sacrifice. And everything evil flows from the altar of God. Every irreverence, every sacrilege, everything that we do to Jesus flows out into the world. Now just think about how much blood has been shed upon the earth: Two babies every single second of every single day are murdered through surgical abortion – two babies every second! What that tells us very clearly is not only do we have an irreverence for the lifeblood of the human person, but it tells us that we have completely violated the lifeblood of Jesus Christ on the altar. It is because of the sacrilege that takes place when we fail to recognize the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, when we fail to recognize what He has done for us, and therefore when we fail to have the proper reverence and love for His life’s Blood that flows out from the altar of God. That is the reason for the abortions in the world.
If Catholics had the proper reverence for the Lord, if the priests had the proper reverence for the Lord, if the bishops had the proper reverence for the Lord, abortion would be ended and so would all the other violations of human dignity. But it begins with failing to recognize and reverence the dignity of Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. It is not a universal failure because, again, we certainly see that there are many good things that are happening; and that is because of the reverence of the people of God and the priests and the bishops. But when we see all of the violations of human dignity, that flows from the violation of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And so if you just keep that one principle in mind – everything flows from the altar of God – whatever you see happening in the world, you are going to first see happening at the altar of God. When we destroy another human being, when we fail to recognize their dignity and we fail in reverence toward that person, it is because we are failing to recognize and reverence the dignity of the Person of Jesus Christ on the altar. Any violation against human dignity begins at the altar of God, and every point of upholding human dignity begins at the altar of God.
So if we want to put an end to the atrocities that are going on in our world, it needs to begin at the altar of God. It needs to begin with prayer; it needs to begin with the proper reverence for Christ. It requires an interior change. That is the word we need to be able to get out. We need to do our part all over the place to get the word out because nobody is going to recognize the dignity of a baby in the womb until they recognize the dignity of Jesus Christ first. So we need to pray, and we need to pray hard, not only for an end to abortion and for the end to euthanasia and for the end to every other violation against human dignity, but we need to pray that the people who are perpetrating these crimes will have a conversion of heart and recognize the dignity of the Person and the Blood that was shed for us – of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.