Wednesday August 27, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Thessalonians 2:9-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 23:27-32)
Over the last two days we have been hearing Our Lord, one time after the next, referring to the scribes and the Pharisees as hypocrites and telling them about the variety of different things they do which are just simple hypocrisy. Today, He talks about how we can appear so righteous and holy on the outside when on the inside we are anything but righteous in the way we do things and the way we act. We are the only ones who know what is in the heart, but we also have a great capacity to put up a nice façade to try to make people think we are something that we really are not. The Lord is condemning that and we need to be very careful of it.
The Lord created us to be the very person that we are, not something that is a façade we put up so people think we are something other than what God created us to be. Just think about that. On the Day of Judgment we are going to be judged for who we are, for what we have done. God is not going to say, “You know, you had the best-looking façade that I’ve seen in anybody in a long time. Come on right in.” It is not going to happen. In fact, as you go through the spiritual life the Lord has to tear the façade down. And that is not a pleasant thing because what is behind it is sometimes pretty ugly. Then He has to purify all that so we truly become the beautiful creation He intends for us to be. We can cooperate with that and seek Him in prayer and seek to know who we really are supposed to be in God’s Providence. In that way, we can get rid of the façade, we can accept ourselves, and we can accept who God wants us to be.
At the same time, then, we see what Our Lord tells them about the prophets, how if we were alive at that time we would not have killed the prophets. But then He goes on to say, “Now fill up what your ancestors measured out.” How many of us would like to say, “If we were alive 2,000 years ago, we would not have been part of that mob who wanted Jesus killed.” Just think about it. How many of us would have stood with Our Lady and with Saint Mary Magdalene and with Saint John? How many of us would have walked away from the mob? How many of us would have stood up for what was right in the face of all the other people who were not standing up for what was right? Perhaps we would not have actually taken part in the murder of Our Lord, but perhaps we would have just silently walked away from the crowd, not standing up for what was right but just simply not giving into the evil. Isn’t that what we do in this society? Rather than speaking out against the murder of babies and all of the hideous things that are going on in this society, we just bury our heads in the sand. We watch more TV, listen to more music, and do whatever it is so that we do not have to deal with it. We do not speak up. We do not tell anybody that this is wrong. We do not make a stand. Even though we know inside that it is wrong and we all believe it, we do not do anything about it. So too, it is very possible that if we were alive 2,000 years ago it is exactly what we would have done.
We couple that now with what Saint Paul told the Thessalonians. He commended them because when he came among them they received the Word of God as it truly is: “Not as the word of men, but the Word of God at work within you who believe.” If that is the case, then we need to really stop once again and look at what is going on inside. The Word of God is within. The Word of God has been planted in our hearts and it is at work in us who believe – if we allow it to be, if we do not push it to the side, if we do not cover it up, but if we allow the Word of God to change our hearts, to change our lives. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Therefore, if we have received the Word of God we have received Christ, and He is the power and the wisdom of God. He is at work within us. That is why we need to get rid of the façade. That is why we need to order our lives according to the way of God because underneath is Jesus Himself and why would we want to hide Jesus? It does not make any sense. Otherwise, we become just the opposite of the white-washed tomb, that is, the outside winds up looking pretty ugly when we have got the Word of God on the inside and we will not let anybody see it. The human façade we put up is somehow more important to us than the divine reality that takes place within. So we need to get rid of sin and we need to live according to the Word that we have received. And we need to keep in mind that it is not merely human words that we have received but it is the Word of God Himself Whom we have received. We need to allow the Lord to work in us and to reshape and transform our lives so that we will become the very image of the Word of God Whom we have received.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.