Tuesday November 4, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 12:5-16ab) Gospel (St. Luke 14:15-24)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us about this king who had a dinner and he invites these people who begin to excuse themselves one by one with all of their various reasons, some of which might sound legitimate but when one considers what they have chosen, the king recognized that they were not legitimate excuses. This is something very important for us because we do the exact same thing. We know what God teaches, we know what Our Lord asks of us, and yet when push comes to shove we come up with all kinds of excuses as to why we do not need to do what God’s Will is. Then we turn around and say, “Well, it’s because of this,” or, “Please excuse me for this; I had to make a choice and I decided to do this instead.” Sometimes, it is going to look legitimate; sometimes it certainly would be, but most often not. Most often it is just some point of selfishness or it is some point of attachment to human affection – we put another person before God – or sometimes it is just that we have our priorities all backwards.
So when we look at what it is that we are supposed to do and how easily we find excuses not to do it, we can look at the first reading and listen to what Saint Paul says: Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection. Well, we are already off to a bad start if we just begin with that because sometimes we cling to what is evil and we reject what is good; sometimes because of pleasure, because of our own selfishness, sometimes because there are more people who cling to what is evil than to what is good and since we want to fit in we are willing to walk away from the good and hold on to the evil.
Saint Paul tells us, Do not grow slack in zeal. Oh, if this is not a huge problem that we are dealing with right now! If somebody were to ask, “Why aren’t you more zealous for the Lord? Why aren’t you bringing the Faith out into the streets? Why aren’t you demonstrating your Catholic faith in the workplace or in the neighborhood?” we are going to have lots of excuses as to why we did not do what we were asked to do.
Then, of course, there is rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, persevering in prayer. This is something we all need to look at. How do we deal with suffering in our lives? Do we persevere through it with prayer? Are we praying every day? Are we living the vows of our baptism that we have made to God? Again, another area where it is easy to find excuses: why we just cannot pray. I recommend beginning by shutting off the TV. It is amazing how much more time you will have.
And then, contributing to the needs of others, blessing those who persecute you, not cursing them but blessing them. How easily we get angry. We hang on to bitterness; we refuse to forgive; we will not let go. We are like pit bulls that latch onto something and you cannot get their jaws off it. We become bitter and what good does it do? Not a bit. Yet, because of the injustice that was done, we are going to be quick to raise the banner and say, “Look at the injustice that this person just did to me! I have every right and reason to be angry!” What good is it doing? None, absolutely none. It just makes us look foolish and completely hypocritical because, on one hand, we are saying that we believe in the Lord and the way He did things and, on the other hand, we are going directly against Him. More excuses as to why we do not want to come to the banquet. If we are going to come to the Lord, remember that He told us, Before you bring your gift to the altar, go and be reconciled; then bring your gift to the altar. If there is something we are not forgiving, we need to let go. We are the only ones being hurt by our own lack of forgiveness. We are the only ones being hurt by our anger; the other person is not. And so we need to look at these things.
Saint Paul then finishes by saying, Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. To be humble, to place others before yourself, this, again, is not the American way. And how many excuses we have for putting ourselves first. If we are going to accept the Lord’s invitation to come to His banquet then we need to make sure that we do not try, first and foremost, to excuse ourselves and find reasons why we do not want to be at the banquet. And so it is a matter of the way we live our lives. It is not necessarily saying, “I don’t want to go to heaven,” but it is a matter of looking at it and asking, “What is going to keep us from heaven?” All those things that will keep us from heaven are all the excuses we have come up with as to why we do not want to live according to the way that Christ has laid out for us and according to the way that the saints have walked for 2,000 years. The way is very clear. There is only one way – and that is Jesus Himself. If we are not walking according to that path then we are finding an excuse for ourselves and we are keeping ourselves from the banquet.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.