Wednesday November 12, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 6:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 17:11-19)
In the readings today, we see some very important things that we need to be able to apply to ourselves. In the first reading, we hear about those who have authority, whether they would be kings or magistrates or princes or judges or whoever it may be, and we are told that the more authority one has the more severe the judgment on that person is going to be. The Lord makes that very clear in the Gospels as well when He tells us, From those to whom more has been given more is going to be expected. Therefore, the judgment on the person to whom the Lord has given more is going to be more severe because that person knows better.
Now, that is “to give more” in any way. For instance, one could have power in a position but if God has given to an individual the simple faith and the holiness and the life of prayer, even though the person may not have any kind of position as far as earthly power goes, that person is going to be judged very severely with regard to how they have lived their life because they would know better. Anybody with any kind of position, with any kind of gift is going to be held accountable by God.
What we also see, then, in the Gospel reading is the way that we need to be able to deal with things, because each and every one of us has been given by God a whole plethora of gifts. There is not one of us who can say, “God has left me out. He gave all these things to all these other people, but He didn’t give anything to me.” We all know better than that, even though we like to whine about that every once in a while. But the reality is, even from the readings today, that if that would be true we should be rejoicing because it would mean our judgment is not going to be as severe as the people to whom the Lord has given more; regardless, we have to accept what God has given.
But we, like that leper in the Gospel reading, have to come back and say “thank you” to the Lord. He had to realize that he did not bring about this healing himself but that this was a gift from the Lord. He had to recognize it as such and he had to give glory to God for what had been given to him. That is precisely what we have to do with any of the gifts God has given us, whatever those gifts might be, however great or however small they may seem to us or to anyone else, it does not matter. Whatever the gifts God has given you, you have to give thanks to God. Saint Paul says, Name anything you have that you did not receive. Therefore, if you received them, why are you boasting of them as though they were your own? – which is what we like to do. We take the talents and the gifts and the abilities that God has given us and then we walk around like a peacock saying, “Look at how wonderful I am because I can do this!” Well, that is a quick way to get a pretty severe judgment; first of all, taking credit for something that God gave you, and, secondly, not having it in its proper focus, using it for the wrong reason, glorifying the self rather than glorifying God. That is why we are told that the judgment that is going to come against these people is going to be terrible and swift, because, as Wisdom says, Judgment is stern for the exalted. The Lord told us that anyone who would exalt himself would be humbled. So even if you look at your state in life and you judge yourself to be a in a lowly position but you go around bragging about what you can do, you are exalting yourself. Therefore, there is going to be a stern judgment attached to that.
And so it is not just those who are exalted in the worldly sense – the President, the Governor, the congressmen, and so on – but it is going to be any of us because God has blessed all of us with many gifts. So, first of all, if we do not accept them and we do not use them, we will be responsible for that. If we try to somehow make them our own, that is, forget about God and just take them and say, “Look at what I have,” or, “Look at what I’ve done,” we are going to be judged for that. It is the middle ground that we have to find: to be able to accept what God has given us, to use the gift and talents and abilities that God has given us, but to use them for His glory, to serve the people of God, and to glorify the Lord with what He has given us. That is what He is looking for. Not a false humility that says, “I don’t have any ability and I’m just worthless and no good,” – because that is not true; but not the arrogance on the other side saying, “I’m just the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone should notice me!” – that, obviously, is false as well; but to find the middle ground: “God has given me these talents and abilities. God has given me the grace to do these things. God is the One Who gets the credit.”
These things are given in many ways to be able to support ourselves or our families, but even there it is put at the service of others. We need to make sure that we are seeing things in the proper context. The gifts come from God and they must be used for the glory of God. On our part, we must approach them with humility and gratitude, and be like that leper who would come before the Lord and get down on our knees and say “thank you” to the Lord for all He has done for us. But then even after that to make sure that we keep things in the proper perspective so that after saying “thank you” we do not just pick it all up and walk away with it and get arrogant again; but to maintain that humility, to thank the Lord regularly, and to ask Him for the grace to use the gifts He has given to us for the purpose for which He has given them to us: for His glory and the service of those around us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.