Disrespect for God is a Plague in Our Society and Our Church
Monday August 18, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Judges 2:11-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 19:16-22)
In the Gospel reading, as this young man comes to Our Lord and asks Him what good he must do in order to obtain eternal life, the Lord tells him that he has to follow the commandments. And the one commandment that we really need to focus on is the first because the First Commandment reminds us that there is only one God and we are to serve Him alone. The problem that the people of Israel ran into, as we heard in the first reading, is that they kept wandering away from God and they kept serving other gods. It kept getting worse and worse and worse. We are told that with each generation they got worse than their ancestors. And so not only did they serve Baal and the Ashtaroth, but it eventually got to the point where they actually offered their children in sacrifice to demons.
Well, we would like to be able to look at them and say, “What an abominable lot! How can anyone do such a thing?” except that this is 21st century America and it has been going on a long time. We live in a neopagan society where lots of people who were baptized Catholic (or any other Christian denomination, for that matter) have wandered away from the faith of Jesus Christ. They are serving all kinds of false gods and goddesses, and many, many people are offering their children in sacrifice to Satan. It is happening over a million and a half times a year in this country, and two babies every second throughout the world. So we cannot point fingers at these people and wonder how it is that they did such things.
The amazing thing is that while this is all happening people think they are somehow justified, that they are holy, that they are in perfect order as far as God is concerned and they have absolutely no concern about their salvation. This is how the devil has managed to get to people’s minds; this is how badly he has twisted things. People pay absolutely no attention to the fact that they need to go to Confession if they have sinned. Communion has become the “reward” that one gets for showing up at Mass, and everybody and their brother – whether they are in mortal sin or not – is more than happy to come forward and stick their hand out to God. The disrespect, the lack of faith, the complete lack of love for God has become a plague within our Church. This is something we really need to look at. It needs to be addressed, but the problem is that it is not being addressed by the leadership and it is not being addressed by the people. If the bishops and the priests are not willing to address the problem, why would we expect the people to? So we see where the problem lies. It is exactly what we heard in the first reading, that God abandoned the people to their sinfulness. He allowed them to do whatever they were doing to do and then He turned them over to plunderers.
We are going to see the exact same problem happening once again because we have refused to listen to God. We have refused to listen to the many people that He has raised up to try to call us back. We have refused to pay attention to our Holy Father. We have decided that he is an old man who lives in Rome and he knows nothing about reality, therefore, we do not need to listen to him. After all, it is far more fun to serve all the little false gods that we have set up, and it is far more important to us to have lots of material possessions like the young man in the Gospel than it is to serve God. When we hear the words of the Lord, tragically, we do not go away sad because we have many possessions; we go away arrogant, having decided that we do not need Him because we have the false gods of all our possessions to keep us safe and sound. That is where we are finding our security these days: the false god of George Washington and all of his friends that are on all of the bills that we like to serve in America, the false gods of all the materialism and the selfishness that we have excelled at in this society, the false god of abortion and contraception and pure selfishness as we serve Satan by offering our little babies in sacrifice to demons. No different are we than the people of old; we have just done it in different ways. And for whatever reason, just like then, we refuse to listen to God; we refuse to listen to those He has raised up. Instead, we have abandoned Him for all practical purposes to serve all these false gods. And then we wonder why God is allowing some of the bad things to happen. It is because of our own choices.
For those who are willing to remain faithful to God in the midst of it, God will use the evil around us to help us become saints by choosing the Lord in the face of all the evil, by going against the current and seeking to serve God with our whole heart and soul and strength, by rejecting anything and everything that violates the First Commandment so that we do not give ourselves over to Satan. That is what we have to be about, and it is precisely what the Lord is looking for. Remember when it came to Sodom and Gomorrah, He said if He could find even ten people in that city who were faithful He would not destroy it. What the Lord is looking for now is fidelity on our part, to get rid of everything that leads us away from God and to seek to serve Him with our whole heart and soul and strength. What a joy it will be if the Lord can even find a few who will be faithful to Him in the midst of this society that has gone completely astray.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.