We Must Do Everything in Love
Thursday June 26, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:21-29)
The Gospel reading today is perhaps one of the most frightening of all the Gospel readings in the entire Scripture. And the reason for it is not because we are told that not everyone who cries out, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but when we look at some of the things that the people whom Our Lord is speaking of have done. That is, they prophesied in His Name, they drove out demons in His Name, they worked mighty deeds in His Name, and then He calls them evildoers and tells them to get out of His sight. That is a bit frightening when we stop to think that we could do all kinds of things in the Name of the Lord and still be considered on the outside.
Now the reason for that is a very simple one. It is because we are not doing the things that are being accomplished – whether it is prophecy or casting out demons or working mighty deeds or whatever it may be – for the Lord. We are doing them in the Name of the Lord, but we are not doing them for the Lord. We are not doing them out of charity, but rather it is for some other reason, whether it is to show off, whether it is selfishness, whether it is pride, whatever it might be. Our reason for doing what we are doing is not out of love for God and love for neighbor. That is the point that the Lord is making because these people called on the Name of Jesus Christ, and, for instance, when one is dealing with demons they have to be obedient if they are commanded in the Name of the Lord to do something, but that does not mean the person who is doing the commanding is doing something for the right reason. And so it is the motive that we have to look at.
That is why Our Lord told us about the house that is built on the rock or is built on the sand. If it is built on rock, it is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. If it is built on the sand, it is built on anything but Jesus Christ. Either way, He tells us, the rains are going to come and the winds are going to blow. If we just have Jesus as a part of what we are about, but our foundation is ourselves or anyone or anything else, the house is going to fall down. And we are going to get angry because we were supposedly relying on the Lord to bail us out of these problems and He did not do it. It was because He was not the foundation. We wanted Him in our life simply because of some selfish reason and not because we loved Him; or the love that we had for Him was a superficial love. It was a question of what we were getting out of the relationship with Jesus more than what we were putting into the relationship with Our Lord.
So that is what each one of us really needs to look seriously at. What is my relationship with Jesus Christ? Am I loving Him as He deserves to be loved? Or do I want a relationship with Jesus because of what I get out of it? Do I have a relationship with Christ because of something selfish? Am I doing the right thing for the wrong reason? It is a very easy thing to do and we can fool ourselves very, very easily. We need to make sure we are doing the right thing but for the right reason. What a tragedy it would be if on the Day of Judgment we stood before Him and He said, “Out of my sight, you evildoer,” because what we were doing was using the Name of the Lord and claiming the Name of the Lord without living what the Lord has commanded us to do. He told us, “Anyone who listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them is the one who is like the man who built his house on the rock.”
The commandment of the Lord is to love. Everything else that we do, if it is not done out of love, what good is it? If we read Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he makes the same point. “If I have the tongues of angels and men but have not love, I have nothing at all. If I have faith enough to move mountains but without love, I have nothing at all. If I hand my body over to be burned but without love, I have nothing at all.” Even if we can do extraordinary things but we are doing them without love, it will do us no good whatever. And so that is what we need to make sure we are doing, that we have our relationship with Christ in the right order so when we cry out, “Lord, Lord,” it is going to be in love – not in some kind of prideful or selfish manner, not because of what we are getting out of it. That is what is critical for us. If we are going to follow the commandment of Christ and build our house on the Rock, Who is Jesus Christ, then we must love God and love neighbor, to hear His words and to put them into practice.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.