Tuesday August 10, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-10) Gospel (St. John 12:24-26)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel this morning that anyone who serves Him the Father will honor. Now we hear about exactly what this service is going to require. First of all, it is going to require that we are willing to lose our lives in order to save them. It is not, however, done with a motive of any kind of selfishness, although I suppose one could say it would be kind of hard to be selfish in losing your own life. The Lord also requires that it be done cheerfully, as Saint Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. It is not something that can be done, he says, in sadness or compulsion; but rather it is something that has to be freely determined.
When we consider love, we realize that it is not something which can be measured, it is not something which can be meted out little by little, but what the Lord is looking for is complete love. It is a matter of giving oneself entirely. So it is not a matter of giving something like money where we can look at it and say, “Well, if I tithe ten percent off the top then this is what I‘m going to be giving away.” When we look at love, we do not say, “Well, I’ll give ten percent,” or, “I’ll ration it out to different people. I’ll give this one a little and that one a little, and whatever is left over, well, then I’ve got that for myself or I’ll give that to God.” Not at all. God wants it all and He wants it done cheerfully. But we also understand that if we are going to give it is going to hurt because it means that we are going to have to go against the selfishness which is inherent within us because of sin. But that is exactly what our Christian life is all about: overcoming sin, learning how to love perfectly.
Our Lord tells us, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it just remains a single grain; but if it dies, it produces an abundant harvest. In other words, if you want to hang onto what you have, you just remain all by yourself. It does not produce much fruit – you are just a single grain that is all alone. But if you are willing to allow the Lord to take everything that you have got (but that means, really, that you have to give it to Him; He is not going to take it from you; He will receive the gift that you offer, but He is not going to violate you by taking something against your will), you no longer remain just by yourself. First of all, it is the Lord then Who works in you and through you, Who lives in you and through you, but then we also produce an abundant harvest because we are no longer living for ourselves but we are living for Him. And so we save our lives in the sense of eternity, but even in this world we live in an entirely different way because we live no longer for ourselves but for Him.
That is the kind of generosity He is looking for. This is a generosity that has to be freely chosen, it is a generosity that has to be freely offered, and it needs to be done joyfully. If we just think about it, if we ask somebody for a favor and they very begrudgingly agree to be willing possibly to do it, maybe, our natural response is “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it; I’ll find somebody else.” Why would we think that God would be any other way? If we do not want to give it, He is not going to take it. We have to have a heart that is open, that is generous, and that desires in love to give freely. We have already received it in love, and so all we have to do is give it back in the same manner it has been received, that is, in love. It was out of a joyful love that Our Lord gave, and, of course, when we receive from the Lord, it is usually a pretty joyful thing for us. But, for some odd reason, when it comes to giving, it is not so joyful for us. It shows how selfish we are, and that is what has to be overcome.
So we need to be willing to lay down our lives, to be willing to die to self, to give it all just as Jesus has done for us – give it all out of love and with a great joy – knowing that we will have eternal life. But more than that, because we do not do it out of any selfish motive, it is knowing that God is being glorified and an abundant harvest is being reaped so that there are many who will be saved. In the end, we will not be alone but the harvest that has been reaped is all going to be there with us – thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold – all the souls that were saved because we were willing to give it all to Christ. We will bring many people to heaven with us so that the harvest will be abundant and the glory given to God will be great.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.