Friday August 27, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 1:17-25) Gospel (St. Matthew 25:1-13)
At the very beginning of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he told the Corinthians, as we saw yesterday, that they have received all of the gifts of God. Today, he tells us exactly what that is. It is the Cross of Christ. The Cross of Christ, he tells us, is foolishness to the Gentiles and it is something that the Jews will not accept, but for those who believe it is the power of Christ. It is the power of God at work within us. Now, that is a difficult thing for people to be able to accept. We know that it is the truth and yet, at the same time, when it comes to really being able to believe it and embrace it we do not like it, because to be on the Cross is to suffer with Christ. However, that is the only means of salvation - the Cross of Christ.
Saint Paul tells us very clearly that what we would like to be able to do is remove what he calls the “folly of the Cross.” But he would not do that because if he had spoken with human eloquence, if he had come in some kind of power and authority, then people might have thought that it was something other than what it really was. And so, he decided he was going to preach only the Cross of Christ and that is what brought the Corinthians to faith. Yet, it was because they did not want the Cross that they were willing to split up into different factions - because they did not want to be able to live the Cross. It is like those who would say, “Well, yes, the Cross was necessary for us to be saved and, thankfully, Jesus did that for us, but it is all done now so I do not need that.” So they want to have the Cross as a reminder of what Our Lord did and yet they do not want anything to do with the Cross. However, we are members of Jesus Christ and so how can we claim to be a member of Jesus Christ without going to the Cross. They want to be able to say, “Well, Jesus is risen for the dead now and so if I am a member of Christ, then I am in the Resurrection and I do not need the Cross. He did that for us so therefore we can all just be part of the Resurrection.” It does not work that way. Jesus did not go to the Resurrection without the Cross and neither will we.
Therefore, as we consider this in the light of the Gospel, we see that the Lord lit a fire within each one of us. It is the fire of faith and it is the fire of love. Sometimes, as the Bridegroom is long-delayed in coming, we begin to think that maybe He will not be returning. Or, at least, we think before He does return we are going to have time to get things turned around. After a while, the fire of our love for God, the fire of our faith, begins to wane and to flicker. We are running out of fuel for it because we are not doing what we need to do to be able to increase that flame, and so when the Bridegroom comes He will find us doing all kinds of worldly things. He will find us, as Saint Paul tells us, being enemies of the Cross because we decided that living a true Catholic life was just a little bit too difficult. It was not popular. It was not acceptable in this world and we wanted to be like everyone else and wanted to fit in. And so, the fire of our love is going out. That is the worldly wisdom. That is the wisdom that Saint Paul rejects because he tells us that God, Himself, has set it aside.
The Cross is the only way. But if we are going to live it we are not going to be acceptable in the eyes of the world. The Jews reject it because they are looking for a sign, as if we need something more than the Cross. The Greeks reject it because it is foolishness, because they cannot grasp the concept of God becoming man and loving us so much that He would die for us. But, for those who believe, it [the Cross] is the power and the wisdom of God. There is nothing wiser and there is nothing more powerful than the Cross. If we are truly going to believe, then, we have to accept that wisdom of God and we have to live it in all power. That means to unite ourselves fully with Jesus Christ and to be with Him on His Cross.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.