Holy Priests Can Change the World
Wednesday August 11, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22) Gospel (St. Matthew 18:15-20)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, we hear about the Lord purifying not only His temple, but purifying the whole of the holy city Jerusalem. He sends these six men (six angels) to purify and He tells them that they are to slay everyone, except that there is one person with them dressed in white linen with a writer’s case at his waist, and he is to mark everyone who is faithful to the Lord with the letter Tau. The letter Tau looks just like a capital letter “T”, and so it looks like a cross. They are to be marked on the forehead with a cross. It is important to note also that if he is dressed in white linen it is because he is a priest; that is exactly what the priests would wear. And so in this we see that there is a foreshadowing of Our Lord.
We hear the exact same thing in the Book of Revelation. So what happened in the Old Testament times in the purification is going to happen again, and only those who are marked with the sign of the cross are the ones who are going to be able to survive that period of trial, that purification, when it comes not only upon the holy city but upon the whole of the earth. Saint Peter also adds to this when he tells us that there is a purification in our midst and we should not be surprised that it begins in the household of God, just at it did in the first reading. It begins in the temple. It did not begin out in the city; it did not begin in the country; it began in the temple of the Lord. And we hear a very terrifying thing, that is, that the glory of the Lord left the temple. Remember that in the Old Testament the people were so completely convinced that because this was the temple of the living God that the Lord would never, ever abandon His temple or His people. It is not that the Lord had abandoned His people – they abandoned Him. But those who were faithful to Him, those, it says, “who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced in the city,” they are the ones who are marked with the sign that would be the cross. They were the ones who were saved. And so what the Lord is looking for from us is to remain faithful. We have been marked with the sign of the cross in Baptism. Also, in Confirmation, we have received once again the sign of the cross on our foreheads. If we are faithful to the Lord, we are going to be saved; it is just that simple.
Now the Lord, one of these days, is going to purify things, and He is going to begin in His own house because that is where it all begins. We have discussed this before: Everything good in the world begins at the altar, and everything evil in the world begins at the altar. If we are saying Masses that are not proper, if we are not being obedient to God…if a priest is in the state of mortal sin and he offers Mass, it is a sacrilege. If the people of God are receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin, it is a sacrilege. That is where every single evil in the world is coming from – every last one. That is difficult for people to be able to understand, but it is the reality. If what was happening at the altar of God was what should be happening at the altar of God, the evil in the world would be kept in check. But because the evil is happening right there in the sanctuary, it flows out from there into the whole world. That is why it [the purification] has to begin there. So if you look around at all the evil that is out there, all the garbage, and all the filth, just look within and you are going to see the exact same problems right in the Church because that is where it all begins. That is why the Lord needs to purify things. Not that He is going to abandon His Church, nor that He is going to abandon His people – He will not – but He is going to allow it to be purified. In fact, He is the One Who will order it to be purified because it is necessary.
We simply need to pray that we will remain faithful. We need to do what Our Lord reminded us to do in the Gospel, that is, to help others to be able to see what they are doing and help them to remain faithful. And we need to pray for the priests so that they will have that conversion of heart so that what happens at the altar is truly holy. What God does at the altar is holy; it is a question of what the priests and the people are doing. If we would get things right, we would see a turn-around. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked one time “What does the world need in order to overcome all its problems?” She said simply, “Holy priests.” The reporter who asked her said, “Of course, Mother, we always need holy priests. But with poverty and all the problems and all the injustices and all the difficulties, what do we need?” She said, “Holy priests.” The reporter said, “No, Mother, you didn’t understand.” And she looked at him and said, “No, you didn’t understand. If we had holy priests, we wouldn’t have any of these problems.” She understood. If we had holy priests at the altar of God, the problems in the world would be non-existent; that is a reality.
All the evil begins at the altar. The purification will begin in the same place. And all that is good begins at the altar. We need to keep that firmly in mind, and we need to find ourselves parked firmly right there before the altar of God, soaking up all the grace that flows from the Blessed Sacrament, uniting ourselves with Him, and remaining faithful so that in the temple of the Lord, near the altar of God, He will find those who He Himself has marked with the sign of His cross, those who will be faithful to Him, those who will give to Him the glory that is due to Him, and those who will be saved from the wrath that is to come.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.