Monday August 30, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)† Gospel (St. Luke 4:16-30)
In the gospel reading today, we hear about Our Lord going into the synagogue in Nazareth and, as He is preaching, we hear it said that all of the people were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth. Then they turned on Him just as quickly and they led Him out of the town and were going to cast Him down headlong over the edge of the cliff. Then we hear about Saint Paul who says to the Corinthians that he did not come with any kind of eloquence, with any kind of persuasive wisdom, but he came in fear and trembling and decided that he would know nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Remember the context: Saint Paul had come to Corinth shortly after he had been to Greece and he had gone into the Areopagus and he had preached, with human wisdom, a beautiful speech, and almost no one converted. That is in the Acts of the Apostles. You can read that speech and not once did he ever mention the name of Jesus. Then, as he pondered it, he realized what it was that he had done. He had gone to the place of wisdom and had tried to deal with the people with wisdom and it did not work because they did not want Godís wisdom. They were only interested in fancy words and persuasive speech. Even Our Lord, with the gracious words that came from His mouth, did not persuade these people to faith because fancy words and all kinds of human wisdom never will.
Faith is a gift. Faith must come not from any kind of words or wisdom, but only from the wisdom of God, which is the Cross of Jesus Christ. That is what Saint Paul tells us that he decided to preach. The people had rejected the Lord and it had not mattered how eloquent He had been. It was the Person they had rejected. They had not rejected His words, but they had rejected His person. And so, when Saint Paul came along and decided to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified, the people of Corinth did not have to put faith in the words of Saint Paul, they had to put faith in the Person about whom Saint Paul was preaching. We need to think about our own selves, as well. It is sometimes very easy for us to be able to try to go out into the world and convince people of different things. It is not going to work unless the only thing we are convincing them of is Jesus Christ.
Now, certainly, as Our Lord and His apostles did, we are going to have to be able to speak to the people, but we have to realize that all of the fancy footwork, and all of the words, and all of the stuff that we can muster, is not going to convert one single person. It never has and it never will. And, if somebody converts merely because of that there is going to be no depth. It is the truth only. Remember, the truth is not about words and propositions. The truth is the person of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ crucified who is going to draw all people to Himself because, there on the Cross, He has been raised up from the earth for that exact purpose. Therefore, what we need to be able to do if we want to bring people to Christ is to come to Him first and foremost. Then, we must live the faith that we profess so that people will see in us what they saw in Saint Paul: Nothing fancy on the human level, which is going to attract anyone. Rather, they will see the power and the wisdom of God because we will be united to Jesus on His Cross and, in so doing, through us, He will draw more people to Himself.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.