Tuesday September 9, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 2:6-15) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-19)
Saint Paul tells us, in the reading we heard from his Letter to the Colossians, to make sure we are not captivated by any kind of empty, seductive philosophy that is based on merely human tradition because he says that in Christ the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form and yours is a share in that fullness. In other words, the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ. He is God. Not like us who simply have a share in the divine nature, His is the divine nature. That is what is His by nature itself. It is just the opposite of us. As we all know, from all eternity He is God; He has His divine nature from all eternity. He is not a human person; He is a divine Person, and to His divinity He took our humanity.
Then for us He did it in reverse. We are human persons, not divine persons, but added to our humanity at the moment of our baptism is a share in the divinity in a manner which is entirely different from that of Our Lord’s. For Him, this union of the human and divine is a substantial union, that is, it is the very essence of His being. For us, it is what is called an “accidental union”. That is, if something were to happen to us and we sinned for instance, if it were a substantial union we would destroy ourselves. If it were a substantial union we would be God. Obviously, I think we all know that we are not. Even the most arrogant of us has to admit that we are not God. But we share in the divine nature.
But the important thing for us to understand is that in Jesus He is God. He does not have a share in the divine nature; His is the divine nature and in Him the fullness of deity dwells, the fullness of what it means to be God because He is God. And when He came down and took our human nature upon Himself, He did not lose anything of His divinity. He remains 100% fully God. Nothing was left behind when He took on our humanity and He came into this world. He is God and God cannot change. So when He came into this world He did not change in His divinity at all; otherwise, He would not be God. And so in Him is the fullness of the Godhead.
But yours is a share in that divinity, and that is why Saint Paul is saying, “Do not be caught up in any of these human philosophies,” of which we have hundreds these days. All kinds of people are getting caught up in them and they are being led astray from the Lord. There is some truth in these philosophies, but not all. The fullness of truth is going to be found in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. If the philosophy upon which you build your whole life and the whole way that you think is based on anything other than Jesus Christ, then you are placing your entire life on half-truths, on shifting sands, on something that is here today and gone tomorrow, on something that is partially true but partially not. But in Jesus Christ there is only truth, and that is why Saint Paul is saying it is according to your dignity that the philosophy of your life is placed squarely on Jesus Christ, because you are a member of Jesus Christ and you share in His divinity. Therefore, to have your life based on anything else is a total violation of your dignity and it goes completely against who you are by Baptism.
So if we have placed what is most important in our lives on anything other than Christ, it is time that changed because as we heard in the Gospel that He called His disciples around Himself and chose twelve, so now He calls each one of us to Himself and He sends each one of us out. That is what the word “apostle” means: one who is sent, a missionary. And so He sends us out to bring His message into the world. What kind of a message are we going to be giving if it is based on human wisdom, human philosophy, human concepts? It is not going to go anywhere. Remember a couple of months ago we talked about that. Saint Paul tried that once. He went to the Areopagus and gave a wonderful, beautiful, profound speech. He never once used the Name of Jesus and he never once spoke about the Cross. And he did not get any converts, well, only a couple. He then said to the Corinthians immediately after: “I have made up my mind to speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That is what our lives have to be based upon – Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead – because that is what our lives are founded on and that is what they must center around, or else we have lost complete touch with the very essence of who we are as Christian people.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.