Wednesday October 22, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 6:12-18) Gospel (St. Luke 12:39-48)
The Lord tells us at the end of the Gospel reading that much will be required from the one to whom much is entrusted. And Saint Paul tells us in the first reading that we have to be obedient from the heart according to the pattern of the teaching with which we have been entrusted. So when Our Lord is talking about what is required of a servant, He says, first of all, that it depends upon how much he knows of his master’s will; secondly, it depends upon how much he understands how much he has been entrusted with. And Saint Paul tells us very clearly that we have been entrusted with the truth. On top of that, he makes very clear to all of us that we are living now under grace, not under the law. Everything is there to be able to know the Master’s Will and to be able to have everything necessary to carry it out, so we are without excuse. That is the point we must understand.
Saint Paul makes very clear, as Jesus does elsewhere in the Gospel, that if we make ourselves obedient to someone we become that person’s slave. In this case, he is not talking about someone but he is talking about something – and that is sin – which ultimately then is the someone – who is the devil; or he says you can become a slave of Jesus Christ, a slave of righteousness, a slave of doing what is right. The Lord tells us, “Anyone who sins becomes a slave to sin.” So we have to look at our own lives and realize that we have been given the fullness of the truth. We know what is right and wrong. There is no one here who can suggest that when it comes to the moral points we did not know any better, because we do. There may be some fine points of morality that we do not necessarily have all the distinctions of, but as far as the things of what a mortal sin is and so on, we pretty well know those things. We are without excuse.
Saint Paul told us that we have to use our body parts as weapons for righteousness rather than as weapons for sin. Are we going to give in to the desires of the flesh when we know what the truth is? That is why he is telling us that we have to live as persons who have been raised from death to life. We are no longer slaves to death, slaves to sin because sin leads to death; but we are slaves of Jesus Christ and that leads us to life. That is what he is telling us and it is exactly what the Lord is getting at. We have been entrusted with the truth, we have been entrusted by Our Lord with the way we are to live our lives, and we know what that is. If we were some pagan out in the middle of nowhere who has never heard of Jesus, maybe we would have an excuse, maybe we could say that we were ignorant, that we just did not know. That person who maybe had done some things that deserve the severe beating, as Our Lord said, will be beaten only lightly; they will go to Purgatory for a while. Us, if the master comes home and finds that we are beating the other servants and eating and drinking and getting drunk, we are going to wind up in hell.
That is the point: We have been entrusted with much and therefore much will be expected of us. That is why Saint Paul says, “Thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves to sin, you have become obedient from the heart according to the pattern of the teaching with which you were entrusted.” That obedience is going to be one way or the other. We would like to say that we are free and we are not slaves to anyone; the difference is that we can use our freedom to become slaves of love to Jesus Christ or we can use our freedom to become slaves of constraint to Satan. We are going to be slaves to one or the other. One is a slavery that violates our human dignity; the other is a slavery which is free, freely chosen, freely willed, and something which builds upon our dignity and will give us true freedom because Our Lord will never violate the dignity that He gave us. And so if we do not want to be slaves and if we think that is beneath our dignity, that kind of slavery is slavery to Satan and slavery to sin, therefore, we must reject that and freely give ourselves over to Jesus Christ and be obedient from the heart to the truth with which we have been entrusted.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.