Monday October 20, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 4:20-25) Gospel (St. Luke 12:13-21)
In the first reading, Saint Paul tells the Romans that this promise God had made to Abraham, and when Abraham believed it was credited to him as righteousness, is not something that is for Abraham alone but actually is for anyone who has the same kind of faith as Abraham. Then he goes on to tell us slightly what that would look like. He said, “It will be also for us, to whom it will be credited, who believe in the One Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.” All of our faith has to center on that one point, that is, that Jesus Christ is God, that He came from heaven to take on our human nature, that He went to the Cross to die for our sins and was raised from the dead, and that we too are going to be raised from the dead. That is where this point of the faith comes from.
Now, of course, as we have said many times, the virtue of faith is different from some generic belief that “Jesus died for my sins, therefore, I’m going to heaven.” That is not what Saint Paul is talking about. But to say that we believe in the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead is to say that therefore we know there is a God and we know that what He teaches is truth. So it is not enough to say, “Well, I believe God exists.” So what? But it is to say, “I accept everything that He teaches.” And central for each one of us is to be able to say, “And I believe that this body of mine, this lowly body that God has given to me, is going to rise from the dead and it will be reunited with my soul and it will live for all eternity – in only one of two places.” So it is that resurrection from the dead, the belief that death is not the end for us but really that it is a beginning, it is a change.
When we have that kind of faith, it is going to make us look beyond this life to the next. And it is exactly that which Jesus is talking about in the Gospel. He talks about this man who stored up all kinds of things for himself and then sat back and said, “As for you, rest, eat, drink, and be merry because you have enough to last for years!” But God says, “This very day your life will be required of you.” And what is it going to get him? So He tells us that we have to store up treasure in heaven. If our focus is on heaven, if our focus is on the resurrection from the dead and on the next life, we know that in this life we are going to die. That is a guarantee. Every last one of us is going to die. Thanks be to God! That is a wonderful gift. But the fact of the matter is that therefore this life is not the end-all and be-all because in the next life it will never end. Again, there are only two possibilities – and both will never end. Once you enter into one you will never get out. One you will not ever want to get out of; the other you will not want to stay, but you will not have a choice.
Therefore, since this life is very short and it will, thankfully, end, we really need to put our focus on the next life. And because this is only going to be transitory, we are not going to be storing up lots of things. It would be, for instance, as if you were going to take a temporary job in a different city and you were going to be there for a few weeks, a month. You are living in a hotel room. You are not going to go out and buy new furniture and buy all kinds of things so that you can deck out your hotel room and make it look real nice because, after all, you have to be there for a short period of time and you want to make it really comfortable. You are not going to do that – it would be foolish! – because in a very short period of time you are moving on. Well, obviously, our life here is a little longer than that, but in terms of eternity that is about all that it is, in fact, even less. So when we put it into that kind of a context you say that if you are going to be moving on you do not try to drag all kinds of stuff with you. You have to put your focus on where you are going to settle in. That is where you are going to say, “Now I can have a home and I can furnish it and I can settle down.”
Well, our home is heaven and that is where we have to have our focus. That is where we have to be storing up treasure to be able to say, “That is where I want to furnish things for myself.” We have to live in this world but we are not living for this world. We have to live for the next life and we have to keep it in context. If we have that faith to believe in God and all that He promised, including the resurrection of our own bodies from the dead and eternal life for each one of us, and we live our lives in accordance with that faith, it will be credited to us as righteousness.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.