Tuesday September 7, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 6:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-19)
In the first reading today from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he tells about going to secular courts. He talks to us about making judgments, even going so far as to say that the just are going to judge the angels. This is something that is pretty astounding when you really stop to think about it. We are going to have – assuming that we get to go to heaven – the grace to be able to stand in judgment of the angels. That is the grace that God is giving to those whom He unites with Himself; but that also means that if we are going to be just, we have to live as just people.
The problem, as Saint Paul points out to them, is that there are some, who have not lived a very good life in the past, but now they have been converted and they need to live according to their conversion. Now, obviously, if we have lived in a not so good way in the past there are going to be effects of that which are going to continue to plague us. However, we have to be able to look at the gospel to see that Our Lord came down the mountain and preached to the people and everyone was cured. All they wanted to do was touch Him because power went out [of Him] to heal them. Therefore, all of the grace necessary for our healing is right there in Christ. It is present in the confessional. It is present, above all, in the Eucharist, and it is going to take place in prayer. It is not something that we are just going to be able to say, “If I go through the motions of going to confession and of receiving Communion that will take care of all of my problems,” but rather it is much, much deeper. It is to be able to really enter into the sacrament, to be able to look with faith and see it in a relational way, to open our hearts and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with Christ so that He can heal us.
The problem is that we want to be healed, but then we keep Him at an arm’s distance so we do not let Him close enough to actually do anything in our lives. We need to let the guard down. However, we also need to make the choice to change our life and not just to change it in the sense to say, “Well, at least I am not out doing anything that is a mortal sin anymore.” [We need] to change [our life] to become truly just, to live a truly Christian life, and to strive for real holiness. That is what the Lord is looking for and, again, that is only going to happen by placing ourselves right in front of the Blessed Sacrament and spending time there. There are too many people running around thinking, “As long as I am doing all of these good things, that is all that is necessary.” Number one, you can do all kinds of good things for selfish reasons. Number two, remember what I have told you many times: The devil will give you many, many, many good things to do as long as he keeps you from doing the best thing – from doing God’s will. We run around like chickens with our heads cut off so that we do not pray. We come up with all of these rationalizations, “But everything I am doing is good!” but there is no time for prayer, there is no time to actually go to the Lord and ask Him what it is He wants us to do.
If we want to truly live the life, the first step after conversion is prayer. If we are not praying we are not living a Christian life. It does not matter how good it is externally. There are ethical pagans out there, after all, and so what do we have above them? The reason why, as Christian people, we do things is because of our faith and our love in and for Jesus Christ, and not for any other reason. Therefore, that is what we can really examine ourselves on: “Why do I do what I do and how am I doing it?” If we are not steeped in prayer, we are not living a Christian life, regardless of what it looks like on the outside; because the Christian life is to be truly just and that means to be holy, that means to be doing the will of God. It does not mean simply just doing good things externally, but it means to be changed internally so that we are living in an entirely different way than other people who are also doing good things, but for a different reason. That is what it implies and that is what we have to be about: Seeking union with Jesus Christ in order to allow Him to live in us and through us. Then we will live just lives. Then we will see things in a very different way and we will live in an entirely different way. That is what Saint Paul is challenging the Corinthians to do: to stop living like pagans since, just because we live in a pagan society, it does not mean we have to live according to pagan ways. We are to be the leaven in society, the light in the darkness, and that means we cannot live like everyone else; even if externally it is a little different, if it is similar internally then we are not doing what is right. We have to live in a different way. The foundation must be entirely different because the foundation of our lives is Jesus Christ, and if He is not at the center of everything then we are not Christian.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.