Friday June 13, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 4:7-15) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:27-32)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as it is called from the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel; that sermon comprising the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. So you will be hearing from that sermon for the next few days. But in that, what we hear Our Lord telling us once again is that we are held to a higher accountability. What was in the Old Testament is still true, but now Our Lord has moved things to a deeper level. Because we have Him, we have now been given the ability to be able to operate in a way that God intended us to operate from the beginning. We have the grace, we have redemption; everything is there for us to be able to operate in a way that is not merely natural.
On the natural level, one might be able to say that if you get angry that is fine and you can hate somebody; but on the spiritual level in Christ, we cannot say that. And so the Lord is driving us to a deeper reality, and we see that very clearly in Saint Paul when he talks about what is happening on the natural level and what happens with grace. He tells us for instance, “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” And then tells us why – “always carrying about in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in us.” Then he goes on to tell us, “Death is at work in us, but life in you.” So it is that union with Jesus Christ that allows us to be able to live in a way which is completely unlike people who do not have Christ.
As we know, we have been elevated to a divine level of acting and of being, and we need to act in that manner. The reason for that is again made very clear in Saint Paul. He said, first of all, that we are sharing in the death of Christ now, looking forward to the time when we will be raised up with Jesus and placed in His presence. But then he says, “Everything is for you so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow in glory to God.” That is what our lives are to be. They are to be given over to the glory of God. They are to be given over to thanksgiving. They are to be given over to union with Jesus Christ and allowing the life of Christ to be lived in us and through us.
The only way the life of Christ can be lived in us is if the death of Christ is lived in us first. The life of Christ cannot be in us if it is still our life that is trying to be lived, which is why we have to die with Christ in order to rise with Christ. If we want Him to live in us and through us, we have to be out of the way. We can try to tell people about Jesus, but that is not living in us – that is pointing to Someone outside of us. If we want people to be able to recognize that we are members of Jesus Christ and that it is He Who is living in us, He Who is at work in us, He Who is doing all of these things in us, then we have to get out of the way and He has to be the one who is at work in our lives. That is what Saint Paul is talking about, and that is what Our Lord is getting at for us.
What is true on the natural level has now been superseded in abundance by the grace of God. And so we can hang onto what is natural – and it is not a sin to do so – but what good is it when we have been given in abundance the grace of God so that we can give thanks and glory to God? That is what our lives are to be about, and so we have to choose the Cross. We have to enter into the death of Christ, as we have already done in Baptism, so that we can now enter into the life of Christ and allow His life to be lived in us and through us. That is the invitation Our Lord gives to each one of us: to no longer live on the natural level but on the supernatural level, to be able to say with Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” That is what is being offered to us, to be able to live as redeemed persons, to be able to live in the grace of God, and to bring Jesus Christ into the world through our bodies, allowing His life to be in us so that more people will be brought to Christ and the thanksgiving will be present in abundance and overflowing in thanksgiving to God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.