Monday August 23, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12)††† Gospel (St. Matthew 23:13-22)
In the gospel reading, Our Lord chastises the scribes and the Pharisees for being hypocrites about the way they are trying to push things on others when they are not living it themselves and causing great difficulty for a lot of people. Now they, of course, would have looked at the way they were living and would have said that they were being righteous because they had the law of God and they were upholding it. However, it was a matter of what it was that they were doing and so the Lord shows them their hypocrisy. The Lord will do the same for us, as well. We have to realize that as we look at our lives rather closely we are going to find that there are probably quite a few areas of hypocrisy in our own lives. The Lord, in order to purify those things, is going to let us struggle and suffer.
When we look at the first reading, we see that the first thing Saint Paul talks to the Thessalonians about after his greeting is about the suffering they are enduring. He talks about the fact that he boasts for these people regarding their suffering because it demonstrates their willingness to suffer for God and that they are going to be made worthy on the day of judgment through their suffering. This is going to be the same for everyone. There is no one on the face of this earth who is going to be made just or righteous without suffering.
If we do not want to be hypocrites (and I assume most of us do not want to be hypocrites) then the question is: How do we overcome hypocrisy because it is there - it is a reality that is going to be present in all of our lives. If we want to overcome our hypocrisy there is only one way to do so and that is to allow the Lord to remove it. The way the Lord is going to remove it (because it is not something we can remove on our own) is through suffering, through taking up the cross and sharing in what it means to be a Christian person. Now, we can look at this and say that if we are bristling a little bit at the idea then it demonstrates our hypocrisy.
We want to call ourselves Catholics but we do not want the cross. There is no such thing as a Christian without the cross because there is no Christianity without the cross. Thus, we realize immediately the struggle that we have to deal with. We want Jesus but we do not want His cross. We do not want to share in His suffering. We do not really want all it means to have the fullness of Christ. Then, in so doing, what happens is that we try to tell the Lord what it is that He is supposed to be doing. We try to remake Christ according to the ways of the world and according to our own design. That has never worked before and it never will work. What needs to happen is that we need to allow Him to reshape or, better said, reform us into His image and likeness. If we are going to be reformed into the perfect image of Christ then the only place that it is going to happen is on the cross because that is where He did His work as the Christ. That is where He did His work as the Messiah. It was not enough, by Godís design, that He would take on our humanity and live in this world, but He became the Christ by pouring out His life for us. Therefore, if we do not want to be hypocrites then it has to begin right there. We have to unite ourselves with Christ on the cross and we have to be willing to take up our share of the sufferings which the gospel entails as Saint Paul tells Timothy. In this way, as he says to the Thessalonians today, this is evidence of the just judgment of God so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are suffering.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.