Wednesday March 10, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Jeremiah 18:18-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 20:17-28)
We hear about the mother of James and John coming to Jesus, asking that her two sons will sit one at His right hand and the other at His left in the kingdom. It is, first of all, immediately after Jesus tells them that He is going to have to suffer and be handed over, mocked, scourged, and crucified, but the apostles did not hear that part. They heard with their ears, but they did not understand at all with their minds or their hearts what it was that He was saying. It is interesting to note that these two men were with Jesus in the garden. Both of them fell asleep; both of them ran away. Here they had the opportunity to be with Jesus in His hour, in the time of His glory. Saint John did, of course, turn back to Our Lord and was there with Our Lord’s mother; and he was at the foot of the Cross. The rest of them were nowhere to be found.
So we see that if we want to be with Our Lord in His kingdom it is going to require a lot more than just a desire for it – it is going to require being crucified with Him. It is going to require looking at our own selves and saying, “I will go with Him.” We hear in the first reading about Jeremiah having plots made against him by the people. The same is going to happen with anybody who is going to be a follower of Christ. It will happen that people are going to reject you just simply because of what you stand for, not because you have done anything wrong, not because you have caused any problems. Jesus never did anything wrong, but the fact is that His very presence was something their consciences could not deal with. The same is going to happen with anyone who is truly following the Lord. People will recognize the goodness and the truth, and they will be attracted to it; and, at the same time, they are going to be repelled by the exact same goodness and truth if they do not want it themselves. And so they work against the truth. We just have to be very clear in that understanding.
But it is ours, then, to do exactly what Jesus did: to continue to love them, to continue to forgive them. That is not easy to do, but He told us that if we want to be considered among those who are the greatest, we must serve the rest. Now that is not sitting back arrogantly, saying, “I can be a great one,” but rather it is simply to say that if we want to go to heaven, if we want to be exalted with Christ, we have to make ourselves humble. We have to become servants of everyone else, which again is not something that most of us really like the idea of being. Yet it is exactly what the Son of God did. And if we think it is beneath our dignity, how are we going to explain that to Him, Who is God above all and Who came and made Himself the least of all and served everyone else?
We have no excuse. He has made it very clear, but, unfortunately, we become just like James and John and their mother. We hear it with our ears, but we do not want anything to do with it. We like the idea of the kingdom, we like the idea of being seated at His right hand and at His left, but we do not like what is required in order to be there: to share in His chalice, to enter into His suffering, to be with Him in the agony. That is the part that is required in order to enter into the kingdom of God: to be crucified with Him so as to be glorified with Him. We need to be very clear about what is required. He was very clear, and yet we do not want to hear it. It is time that we put all the other things aside and ask ourselves, “What really did Jesus tell us?” because I suspect, for most of us, the minute that the difficulties and sufferings come, we rebel against them. We begin to ask God, “Why are You doing this to me? What have I done to You?” (As if we really need to ask that question.) We seem like we do not understand that this is part of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
We need to get the right attitude, but that starts by opening our hearts to be able to hear the Word of God. Otherwise, we become like those that Jesus condemned through the words of the prophet Isaiah: “They have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear lest in hearing they be converted and be saved.” We have heard the words of God. Do we really want to hear them? Do we want to understand them? Do we want them to make a difference in our lives? The Lord tells us what it is going to require: We have to be humble, we have to serve, and we have to suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.