Friday February 21, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 11:1-9) Gospel (St. Mark 8:34-9:1)
In the readings today, we once again see two completely opposing ideas. We have the people at Babel building their tower up into the sky and trying to make a name for themselves, trying to be God, in essence. There is a little bit of humor that Moses has worked into the story as they tried to basically topple God and Moses says that God had to come down from His throne to even look at what they had made to be able to show that what they thought was so great was really quite puny in comparison to the glory of God. The idea was not so much the grandeur of what they had built, but rather, the idea in this case is the arrogance of the people who are doing it; it is their own pride. Rather than building the tower, rather than that being the focus, it is their own self that really is what we need to look at, the arrogance, the pride, the selfishness. Then we see the Gospel, and Our Lord tells us that whoever wants to come after Him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord. And He tells us that we are going to have to lose our life in order to save it.
These people in the first reading are trying to make something of themselves, and the Lord is telling us that we have to make nothing of ourselves rather than to make something of ourselves. If we really want to be something, we have to become nothing, because that is the only way we will have everything if we give everything up because the more that we are hanging on to anything here, the less that we can have of God. And so we have to let go of everything because God Himself is everything, and when we possess God we have all.
Again, when we look at what Our Lord says, He asks a simple question: What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? You can make a great name for yourself. You could build buildings up to the sky. You could make a city. You could have all kinds of extraordinary things. Your name could be known throughout all the earth. And you could fail to get to Heaven. What good is it? We put our focus in this world so often on the wrong thing. It just reminds us once again of that quote of Mother Theresa: God does not care if we are successful; He only wants us to be faithful.
It does not matter that you have a name in this world; it does not matter at all. What matters is that we are faithful to Him so that we can be with Him forever. The only people the only people who are truly a success in this world are the ones who make it to Heaven. If you really think about it, success has to be determined not by what we do in this world (that is, by what kind of a name we make for ourselves or how much money we have amassed or what we have done or whatever it might be) but it really has to be gauged by the end. If we go to Heaven, we have been a success. If we go to hell, we have been a total failure, no matter what it is that we have done in this world that worldly people would think is great. That is what we need to look at. We need to get our focus correct and stop trying to impress the people, stop trying to make a name for ourselves. All we need to do is bring ourselves to nothing so that we can have everything, to humble ourselves, to take up our cross, to lose our lives in order to have true life, to put ourselves aside so that the Lord can live in us and through us.
That is what we have to be about: to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, Who humbled Himself completely, made Himself nothing, took on the form of a slave, went to the Cross, and died for us. All we have to think about is Him. He is God, Who took on a human nature, Who came into this world and lived a humble life in a little Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, preached to a handful of people, and was killed for telling the truth. Look at what God has done. At the same time, we can look at Herod, who tried to make himself great even to the point of calling himself that: Herod the Great. He built great castles for himself and he built a huge temple that took 46 years to build, and it all came to nothing.
So we see those two differing ways of looking at things. One, to puff ourselves up; and the other, to make ourselves humble. One, to look out for ourselves in this world; and the other, to look at the next world. What profit does one show if they gain the whole world and lose their life in the process? They show no profit. They are a total and absolute failure and a disgrace. If we want to be successful then we need to be faithful to Jesus Christ, to humble ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him, not only to Calvary but through Calvary to the Resurrection and to eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.