Tuesday June 17, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:43-48)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells us in his Second Letter to the Corinthians that we have to practice the Faith in love. And he writes to the Corinthians that what they are to do is to consider the generosity that the people from Macedonia have already practiced. In their utter poverty and in extreme circumstances, they were actually begging Saint Paul for the favor of being able to donate to a collection that was being taken up to send back to Jerusalem where the Church was being persecuted. What he is pointing out is that these were people who gave totally of themselves. They gave themselves first to God, they gave themselves to Saint Paul and to Saint Titus, and they gave themselves to the people of Jerusalem in charity, uniting themselves to the suffering that the people in Jerusalem were enduring. Saint Paul exhorts the people from Corinth to do the same. Not by way of command to give money (because that is not what the interest was) but rather to give of themselves, to be able to look at it and say, “If one truly loves God and neighbor, how is that going to come out? How is that going to be expressed?”
It is one thing to be able to sit back and talk about how much we love God and neighbor but not put it into practice – there is no real charity there. It is nice words and it may even be nice feelings, but it is not the reality of the kind of charity that a Christian needs to have. We need to practice love. And that is where the struggle comes in because it means going beyond ourselves. The Lord made very clear in the Gospel what this is going to have to look like for us. He tells us, “In the Old Testament, you heard it said that you are to love your neighbor but hate your enemy.” And He tells us we have to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, things that do not come naturally to us, things that are not easy for us. But He tells us that we have to be just like God, Who allows the sun to shine on the good and the bad, and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
This being the case, we also, if we are going to be children of our heavenly Father, have to be like Him. That is exactly the point the Lord makes. He tells us that we are to be perfect as God is perfect. The perfection of God is very simple: God is love. That is all that God is; He is love, pure and simple. And if we are going to be children of our heavenly Father, we then must be conformed – indeed, transformed – into love itself. That is not merely, as the Lord makes clear, for those who love us, but it is going to be shown particularly in the way we treat those who do not love us. So we can very quickly look at our own lives and ask how we are treating the people who treat us badly, people who do not like us, who treat us in a certain way because we are Catholic, the people who do not want to talk to us or who want to reject us, whatever it may be. What is our response to those people? How do we deal with them? What is the tone of our voice when we speak to them? What is our attitude toward them? Do we reach out in charity when we see them in need? Those are things that we can be looking at.
When we look at what Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, that Jesus, though He was rich, became poor for their sake so that they could become rich, so too He has done for us. And in Christ, all that is at our disposal. Not necessarily monetary riches, but the riches of grace, the riches of God’s life and God’s love that have been given to us. In a way, we can look at it and say that for people who do not know Christ and for those who want to persecute us, from the point of view of grace we are like millionaires and they are asking for a dime. What is our response? Are we going to be charitable to them as God is charitable to us? Out of our richness, are we willing to enrich them in their poverty? Are we willing to express the charity that is ours and the love that has been poured forth into our hearts through God, through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us in Christ, and are we willing to bring that to those who either do not like the Lord or do not like us for whatever reason? What kind of example are we going to be to those who would persecute us for being Christian? Are we going to show ourselves to be true Christians? Or are we going to show ourselves to be just like they are – people who do not know Christ and do not live the Faith that we profess?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.