Friday September 19, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 6:2c-12) Gospel (St. Luke 8:1-3)
In the readings today, one might consider that there is a contradiction. We have, in the first reading, Saint Paul telling Timothy not to try to make himself rich. We have the Psalmist telling us that when someone becomes rich he becomes conceited and thinks to himself, “Everyone’s going to think I’m wonderful. I’ve done really well for myself,” and, of course, that nothing is going to follow him down. Then we have some women who are part of the group that followed Our Lord, and they, out of their means, took care of the disciples. So we see that these women obviously had some money to be able to meet the needs of Our Lord and His apostles. But Saint Paul makes very clear that it is not the money that is the problem but the love of money that is the problem.
Perhaps if we looked into our own hearts we are probably going to find (in most of ourselves, anyway) that there is a love of money. We get very concerned about it. We hoard it; we want it; we try to save it; we do all the things we can to get more of it. And for what? Where is it going to lead us? It leads us most of the time to get more material things, more stuff. And where is that going to lead? Right in the wrong direction. It leads us away from Jesus and right into ourselves, and we play right into the devil’s hand. That is where the problem comes with all the money. We either hoard the money or we use the money to buy more things for ourselves. It is all selfish, one way or the other.
Saint Paul, on the other hand, tells Timothy what he is supposed to do. He says, “Instead of this, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith.” That is what we ought to be doing and Saint Paul tells Timothy why, he says, “Lay hold of eternal life to which you were called when you made your noble profession in the presence of many witnesses.” That noble profession is the profession of faith in Jesus Christ which each and every one of us has made. We were baptized into it. Therefore, what we told Christ on that day is that we were going to reject Satan with all of his works and all of his empty promises. And one of the devil’s greatest promises is: “You can be rich. I’ll give you lots of stuff. You can have money; you can have ease; you can have material things. You can have all the stuff you want – just do it my way.”
Now the devil is not so stupid as to think that we are going to act in a devilish manner, that we are going to give up all the morality we know to be correct and so on. He is not that dumb that he thinks we are going to be able to do all that. He would like it if we did, but he knows better than that. So he gets us on the other things. He gets us caught up in ourselves. That is my definition of hell: Looking at yourself for the rest of eternity. So are we starting now to prepare for Heaven by looking at God? Or are we starting now to prepare for eternity in hell by looking at ourselves? There are only those two options. The devil does not care how he gets us, as long as he gets us. And all he needs to do is make us focus on the self. That is why we need to look very seriously at the focus. If there is a love of money we are in trouble because the love of money takes the focus from God and puts it onto ourselves; or, perhaps even worse, makes money into an idol of some sort that we put too much emphasis on.
Obviously, we have to work and make money to pay bills and the like; that is not the problem. It is the love of money which Saint Paul talks about which is the problem. That is where the trouble comes. But for each one of us, if we will just trust God, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His way of righteousness and all this other will be given to you besides.” And so again, for each of us who have made a profession of faith, we need to look at what Saint Paul admonishes each of us to do: to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. That is what our lives are to be about. If we do those things we can trust that God will provide for everything else.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.