Tuesday January 20, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Samuel 16:1-13) Gospel (St. Mark 2:23-28)
In the first reading today, we hear a statement by God to Samuel when Samuel is ready to anoint one of Jesse’s sons whom God had not chosen, and God said simply, Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart. Now this is something that we all know very well except it seems regularly to leave our minds, at least we tend to forget about it with great ease it seems, because we do the exact same thing. We get caught up into looking at the outward appearance, into the externals, with regard to different people. We, of course, fall into it with regard to our own selves. We try to make everything look good on the outside, make sure people think well of us, try to present a façade that looks favorable in the sight of others. But it does not matter what anybody else thinks; all that matters is what God thinks.
As we all know, on the Day of Judgment we are going to be standing before God, not everyone else. No one will be with us and no one else is going to be looking at us. It is going to be us and the Lord. If that is the case, then that is what we really need to be thinking about now because everything that we do the Lord is looking on. We are not able to hide anything from Him. We have to remember that the Lord even knows our inmost thoughts. The devil cannot read any of those, our guardian angel cannot read them, but God alone can. And so on the Day of Judgment there will not be any explanation. There will not be any attempt on our part to be able to persuade God – “No, that’s not really why I did it” – because the Lord knows the motive, He knows what we did, He knows when we did it, He knows why we did it. We are not going to be able to hide anything from Him.
How many times we try to make ourselves appear a certain way, but we are not going to be able to fool God. How many times we have been caught in the trap of looking at the appearance of others and making certain assumptions based solely on their appearance, but we are not going to be able, once again, to get around that with the Lord. If we just put ourselves back 2,000 years ago, based on appearance, we have to ask ourselves the simple question: Which one of us ever would have been a follower of Jesus Christ? His appearance would not have been real impressive, walking around as an itinerant preacher, not having anyplace to lay His head. He probably did not look real clean all of the time, and we probably would have thought He was not anybody too impressive to be able to look at; especially, of course, along the way to Calvary there was nothing impressive to look at: someone who was marred and beaten and bleeding all over the place. Yet from 2,000 years away we can look at it and say, “But that’s the most beautiful person and that’s the greatest act of love.” But at the time, if we were looking at appearances, we would not have said that.
And how many times, as Saint Paul himself says, have people taken care of the poor (or that is who they thought it was) when in fact it was an angel. These sorts of things we need to keep in mind, that when we make judgments based on appearances we are going to get ourselves into trouble. If we look at the Letter of Saint James, he talks about the same thing. He said, “A rich person comes in and you say, ‘Oh, sit over here. Can I get you a footstool?’ and you make sure everything is okay, but when a poor person comes in you say, ‘Oh, you can stand over there’.” Saint Paul got on them because when they got together for a meal as a community of Christian people some of the people were eating very fancy things and others had nothing, and the ones eating the fancy things did not share it with the ones who had nothing at all. Again, we see the appearance, but in this case the appearance is going to lead to condemnation because judgments were made in people’s hearts even to the exclusion of others.
So, for our own selves, it is an important lesson not only to make sure that what we are trying to do is what is right in the eyes of the Lord and not worry about whatever anybody else is going to think, but to be very careful about making judgments about others because we simply do not know. What God asks is that we treat everyone with charity regardless of what the appearance may be and leave the judgment to God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.