Saturday March 1, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 17:1-15) Gospel (St. Mark 10:13-16)
In the first reading today from the Book of Sirach, we hear about how God has created man and given him dominion. We see that right from the very beginning in the Book of Genesis, that God has given to humanity dominion over all the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and all the wild beasts and so on. Yet at the same time that we have this dominion and authority over all creation, we also are told very clearly that we are not the end-all and be-all of creation. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation – as the prophet says that humanity are the jewels in the crown of God’s creation – but God is the Creator, and He has dominion over us. Everything that was created was created for us and we were created for God. And we must recognize that dominion of God over us. It is something which is critical for us to understand, especially in this society where we have, in essence, rejected God. We live in what is now called a neopagan society, or what sociologists would call a post-Christian society. We have given up on God and we have fallen into the worship of self in any variety of forms. And so what we need to look at is what God has commanded us.
He tells us in the Gospel reading today that the kingdom of Heaven is for those who are like little children, for those who will simply accept the Word of God and believe and be obedient to what God has asked. The problem in our society is that too many of the children are no longer. How can one accept the kingdom of God like a little child when we murder children? When we destroy them in the womb? When we do not allow them to be conceived or at least we do not allow implantation because of contraceptives that kill the babies before they are implanted? We live in a society where children have no value. They are little trophies. What is far more important than a child is a career. And it does not matter if one is a mother or a father; all that matters is what one does to make more money. So we rush to drop kids off at day care centers and we do not want to spend any time with them. They are a bother; they are in the way; they are smelly; they are noisy; they are wet; they are dirty – whatever it is that we want to say about them. They are little trophies that we drag out when company comes over, otherwise, we do not want anything much to do with them.
The very first commandment of God that He gave to humanity was to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. God did not say, “Have a trophy and quit.” He did not say, “Two babies and you’re out – unless the first two happen to be the same sex then we can tolerate possibly a third one to see if you can get one of the opposite sex. If you don’t, too bad; three is the limit, absolute.” You see, we have thrown away God’s commandments. We do not accept the kingdom of God like a little child because we want to tell God how His kingdom is supposed to be. We think we have dominion over one another; and even worse, we think we have dominion over God. Everything beneath us was created for us. We are created for God and we need to keep the priorities straight.
Our society has the priorities completely inverted from what they are supposed to be. Scripture makes very clear that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as our self. So we see that God is to be at the top; the self is to come last. Our society has it just backwards. “Looking out for Number One” does not mean looking out for God first; “Looking out for Number One” means putting the self first and “making sure that anything I want is provided for me.” It is all about the self. It is about pleasure; it is about ease; it is about materialism; it is all about the ego. God fits in the picture in our society only if He is of some value for some reason, down the ladder somewhere. It makes us feel good if we go to church or if we say a prayer; so it is still about the self.
We need to look very seriously at this. We need to come to God as a child comes to his parents, with a heart filled with love, respect, obedience, humility, and so on. But if we do not see the value of children, we cannot see the value of being childlike. If we cannot put God first then our whole society is going to be destroyed; it will implode upon itself – and that is precisely what we see happening. The only hope is for Christian people to live the way that God has commanded us, to get things back where they belong, to put the order right, and to be childlike in accepting God and His commands.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.