We Need to be Purified of Our Selfishness
Tuesday July 22, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Song of Songs 3:1-4b) Gospel (St. John 20:1-2, 11-18)
Yesterday in the readings, we saw that the problem we deal with in America is the slavery to one’s own self, a slavery to the senses. And today we see exactly what will happen. We talked yesterday about how there will be no sign given to this generation except that of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Now the problem when we think about that is we can very easily look forward to it. And we should. When we see all of the evil in the world that is going on, it is something that we can look forward to and say, “Thankfully, something is going to be done about this and there is going to be the Era of Peace. It will be a truly Catholic world, and we will be able to get on with the work of living our lives and serving God the way that we are supposed to.”
However, there is one problem, and it is the same problem we see in the Gospel reading with Saint Mary Magdalene today. That is, if the selfishness has not yet been purified out, we can be seeking, in this case, Our Lady, but also Our Lord, for the wrong reason, for a selfish reason. If that is the case, then again if we look at it and say that the problem we are dealing with is a total attachment and slavery to self, to the desires that we have for ourselves and not seeking God for His own sake, then we are going to run into the problem that Saint Mary Magdalene did. Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold onto Me.” “Don’t touch Me,” is what He actually said. “Do not touch Me. I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father.” It sounds like a terrible rebuke. It sounds like He is angry at her, which He is not, but it is to be able to say, “You are still hanging onto your selfishness. You are seeking Me for the wrong reason. You are not loving Me for Who I am, but you are loving Me for what you get out of it and that is the wrong reason.” That needs to be purified out in all of us as well so that we are not simply seeking something from the Lord for our own selfish reasons.
Unlike the worldly people, who are simply seeking themselves in materialism and money and comfort and pleasure and ease and whatever else they can find, what we can do is just simply substitute the Lord for that. Rather than seeking the Lord for Himself, we seek the Lord for our own selfish reasons. That is normally the way things begin in the spiritual life, but that all needs to be purified. And so the Lord then, through the struggles and the sufferings of our lives, gets us to the point finally where we seek Him only for Himself because He deserves to be loved and we are made to love. What are we going to do for all eternity other than love God? Not for what we are going to get out of it, love is not about what we are getting – love is about what we are giving. It is what we are pouring into the relationship with God.
God is there to love us; that is all He can do. God is love. So we do not need to worry about a thing from His side. He is loving us completely, which means He is seeking our good and doing what is the very best for us. He will provide for all of our needs; we need not worry about that at all. The problem for us is that we have to be there to love Him. Not to love Him for what we are getting out of it, not to seek Him for any selfish reasons, but to seek Him simply for Who He is. That is what we see in the first reading from the Song of Songs: Have you seen Him Whom my heart loves? The bride is seeking the Bridegroom for the Bridegroom’s own sake, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to find Him simply because she loves Him so desperately. Not because of what she is going to get out of the relationship, but simply because she is completely in love with the One Whom her heart loves. That is what Jesus desires from each one of us.
It is true, Saint Paul tells us, that we get a lot out of our faith. From religion, one can have great gain. But that is not why he was preaching the Gospel, to get anything out of it. It is not why Jesus came into this world, so He could get something out of it. It is not why the Church exists, to see what She can get from us. That is not the point at all. Rather, Jesus came into this world to give so that we could receive. Saint Paul preached the Gospel for others. Saint John says he desires that “our joy may be yours, and your joy may be complete”. It is for the sake of the other. In this case, the other is Jesus, the other is Mary. We need to see them for their own sake, to love them for who they are and not for what we can get out of it. That is what has to happen as our love for Our Lord and for Our Lady is purified so that we will look forward to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, to the great sign that will be given to this generation. Not for any selfish reason, but for the sole reason of loving God and giving Him the greatest glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.