Monday October 11, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1) Gospel (St. Luke 11:29-32)
Saint Paul, in the first reading, speaks about the two women who gave birth to the two sons of Abraham. Hagar, who was an Egyptian woman, is (according to the allegory Saint Paul is mentioning here) the one who gives birth to slavery because it was from Egypt that the Israelite people were enslaved; it was also from Mount Sinai, down in the area of Egypt, that the law was given. And the law became a law of slavery, according to the way that Saint Paul is looking at it, because it was all about these external practices. On the other hand, there is the freeborn woman. That, of course, is Sarah, who gave birth to Isaac. In this way, the promise that was made to Abraham was fulfilled in a way that was most extraordinary: a woman who is ninety years old giving birth to a baby. It was obviously not in the natural course, but rather it was because of a miracle and because of the promise God had made.
What Saint Paul is then talking about is that we are not born in the natural course either (that is, reborn according to the natural course), but rather by the promise of God do we have the fullness of life that has been given to us and the freedom of the children of God. When the Lord tells us that we have someone greater than Solomon here and we have someone greater than Jonah here, it is because He is talking, obviously, about Himself. But if we apply the words that the Lord is speaking to ourselves, we need to make sure we are listening to what He is telling us because we are members of Jesus Christ. And if we are members of Jesus Christ then we are children of the freeborn woman, that is, our Blessed Lady. She is our mother and we are members of the Son of God. Therefore, within us (if we are in the state of grace) is the very life of God Himself because of sanctifying grace, and we have the covenant within us.
That, again, is the difference. In the Old Testament, entrance into the Old Covenant was something physical: the males all had to be circumcised. Entrance into the New Covenant is something which is spiritual: it is through Baptism. In the Old Testament, when one entered the covenant it was to become part of the people of God. Today, when one enters the covenant it is to become a member of the very Son of God Himself.
When we see these things and we recognize the dignity which is ours and all of the gifts and graces God has given to us, we realize the absolute necessity to live according to the freedom which has been given to us, the freedom from sin. And so when Saint Paul is telling the people of Galatia that they are not to take on the yoke of slavery a second time, he, of course, is telling them not to be circumcised (in other words, not to become Jewish and become under the law). For us, we could say today (because that is not the issue any longer) that if we have been freed from sin then let us not yoke ourselves once again to Satan. Let us not give into sin, but rather live according to the true freedom of the children of God, that is, freedom from sin, free to live as people who have been redeemed in the Blood of Christ, free to live according to the grace of God rather than according to the desires and the movements of nature. That is the way we have to be. If we are not born of natural stock according to this way but are born of promise, then all of the promises of God are able to be fulfilled within each one of us. So we have the ability to live free of sin. We have the ability to be able to live according to the Son of God, of Whom each one of us is a member. And if we are a member of the Son of God, He is to live in us and through us, which means that we can live in a divine way. We can live in a sinless way so that we are able to live as true children of the freeborn woman, true children of our Blessed Lady, true children who are both God and man. That is, for us (those born as human persons and reborn to take on the divine nature), we can be like her Son. Not to be fully God, obviously; not to be the Second Person of the Trinity; but rather, to share in the divine nature and to live according to that divine nature, to live according to the grace that God has given to us, to live in the full freedom of the children of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.