Monday October 13, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Luke 11:29-32)
Saint Paul, in writing to the Romans, tells us that he has received the grace of apostleship for the very purpose of bringing about the obedience of faith, for the sake of the Name of Jesus Christ, among the Gentiles. But then he says something very important to the people of Rome that is completely applicable to us. Regarding the Gentiles, the nations, the people who are not in Israel, he said, “… among whom are you also, who belong to Jesus Christ, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.” That is us. We are living among a pagan people, and yet we belong to God in Jesus Christ and we are called to be holy. That is exactly what Saint Paul is telling the people of old and it is exactly what he would tell us today: that we have to shine in this society. It is the darkness of paganism, it is the darkness of worldliness, and yet, because we belong to God, because we belong to Jesus Christ, we should shine like the light in the midst of the darkness. We are called to be holy.
Now the problem that we would have is, first of all, making the determination that we are going to be different from the world; but then, secondly, making the effort to really be different. And it is not a matter of trying to be different, but rather it is a matter of trying to be like Christ, to be united to Him, to be conformed to Jesus Christ. That is what the goal of our life is. There are plenty of people in our society who have simply made a decision to try to be different, but that is so they can get all kinds of attention for being odd. We do not need any more weird people – what we need are holy people. If you are holy, of course, most of the others are going to think that you are odd, but let them think what they will. If you are holy, you are going to be doing what is right. The only reason you will stand out is not because you have weird-colored hair or pins all over your face or tattoos up and down your body, but because the way you live your life is different from the way other people live their lives. It is going to be simple; it is going to be holy; it is going to be focused on Christ.
Now when Jesus spoke to the people of His own generation and talked about it being an evil generation, we only have to remember the words of Pope Pius XII, back in 1957, when he told us that we live in “the most sinful society the world has ever known”. That was 1957, so I think we can honestly and without hesitation say that we today live in the most sinful society the world has ever known. It is an evil generation. But in the midst of that, Jesus told the people of His own time, “The queen of the south will rise at the judgment and she will condemn that generation because she came from the ends of the earth to seek the wisdom of Solomon, and there is a greater than Solomon here. And the Ninevites at the preaching of Jonah repented, and there is a greater than Jonah here.” And so the holiness that we are called to is to seek out Jesus Christ. If the queen of the south would travel for thousands of miles across the desert on the back of a camel to be able to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, we should certainly make the effort to travel across the city in our air-conditioned or heated cars so that we can listen at the feet of Jesus Christ. If the people of old repented and changed their lives because of the word of God spoken through a disobedient prophet, how much more should we listen to the word of God spoken through the Word of God, His obedient Son, Who died for our sins?
You see, when we compare these things, we recognize that if we are going to say that we belong to God in Jesus Christ, that we live among the Gentiles but we are called to be holy, it does not require an awful lot of us but it does require some effort. We have heard the Word of God, we have the New Solomon, the New King of Peace, among us; and we have to make the effort, not only to come to listen to Him and to repent, but to truly change our lives to become like Jesus Christ so that we will shine like stars in the midst of a dark society that has gone astray, in the midst of a society that does not know God. We have been given the greatest gift of all, but we have to make the choice to embrace it and to make the changes to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ, in Whom each one of us is called to be holy.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.