Thursday September 9, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 8:1b-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Luke 6:27-38)
Saint Paul, in the first reading today, makes a very clear distinction between knowledge and love. Knowledge, he says, inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows something then he ought to realize he does not know as he ought. The reason is that if what we are doing is focusing on head knowledge we are not getting very far at all. What we have to focus on is the commandment of Our Lord. Jesus did not command us to know; He commanded us to love. That is the very purpose of our creation. Now we know that we can only love what we know, so as we come to know more about God we are able to love Him more. There are many people who get stuck in the knowledge, but not in the love. The knowledge has to lead to love. Remember that in the old Baltimore Catechism it says, "…to know, to love, and to serve," in that order. Knowledge should lead to love; love leads to service. This is exactly what Our Lord is telling us. We have all kinds of knowledge of the things of earth, and what it does is tend to make us very selfish. So Our Lord goes through and He tells us, These are the things you are supposed to do: Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors, lend to those from whom you do not expect repayment, give. These are things that do not come easily to us, and part of the reason is because we know too much – or we think we do, anyway.
What we need to know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Look at what He did and for whom He did it. And that does not mean we have to look at anyone else; the only person we have to look at is ourselves. We ask, "For whom did He do this? For someone that He knew was so good? For someone that He knew would never turn their back on Him? For somebody that would never betray Him?" No, we know better than that. He did it for people from whom He did not expect repayment. He did it for people who were His enemies. By the grace of God, we have had a conversion of heart and we have turned our lives over to Him, but it has not always been that way. But if we truly have turned our lives over to Him it is not about knowledge – it’s about love. We know, for instance, in our head that He alone is God, that He is all-powerful, that He is all-loving, that He is completely trustworthy, and so on. Yet, even with all that knowledge, for us to act on it is very, very difficult because we do not love. It is only when we love that we are going to be able to give ourselves completely to Him because then it is not knowing He is trustworthy, but it is trusting Him; it is not merely knowing He is the only one, but it is living that truth in our day-to-day lives.
Knowledge by itself is fine, but it is not enough. The knowledge that Our Lord is wanting for us is not worldly knowledge, but it is the gift of knowledge and the gift of wisdom, the gift of understanding which comes from above, not the knowledge which is from the earth below. It is knowledge of God and God is love. Therefore, the knowledge that Our Lord wants for us is the knowledge of love, knowledge of Him and Who He truly is. That is the point Saint Paul is making. If we truly love we are not going to do anything that is going to cause a problem to our neighbor. We are not going to violate that person; we are not going to do anything that would cause trouble for that person’s conscience. We are going to seek the good of others; we are going to be selfless. Those are the sorts of things we have to be about. That is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Who did all of those things. If we are going to be members of Christ and conformed to Christ, that is what our lives have to be as well. That is the kind of knowledge we have to have.
So, as Saint Teresa said regarding prayer, Prayer is not thinking much – it is loving much. It is not about how much you know about all the theology that is out there because the knowledge is not going to get anyone to heaven. The only thing that is going to get us to heaven is to love. It is loving Him Whom we know and coming to know Him by loving Him. That is the way we have to be: to take what we know, bring it to prayer, grow in love for Jesus Christ, and put it into practice – to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.