Thursday October 28, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 2:19-22) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-16)
When we hear these words from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, we see in this reading that there are actually two different meanings of what this can imply for us. It means, on one level, that we are citizens of heaven, that we are children of God, that our homeland is not in this world but rather it is in the next. Therefore, we are passing through this world as sojourners but we have a place, we have a homeland, and so we have a place where we can be at peace and where our heart needs to be focused because that is where we are headed toward.
At the same time, Saint Paul says that beyond just the generic sense that we have a homeland and that is where we want to be going, we are also part of the building, and that building is the homeland. So it is not just to be able to say in the sense that we are Americans, but rather if somehow we could actually say, “We are America,” that we are actually part of what makes this country what it is; not in the sense that we are just a cog in the wheel that is making it go around, but literally if we would be able somehow to say, “We are part of the very fiber of what makes this country what it is.” Well, that is what we can say about ourselves with regard to heaven, that we are part of the very building which God is making. We are living members of the temple of the Holy Spirit being built up, and so then not only do we say, “Yes, we have a citizenship there,” not only do we say, “We have a home there,” but at the same time we become the home, we become the land, we become the very place. This is something that is taking place within. That, again, is what is so important because it becomes the very means by which we have to define ourselves because it is the reality of who we are.
We are built, as Saint Paul says, upon the foundation of the apostles. What a wonderful place to have a foundation, because as Saint Paul tells us, there can be no other foundation other than that which has already been laid with Jesus Himself as the capstone holding the entire structure together, and it is a temple in the Holy Spirit; so the Holy Spirit working through each person, being built on the solid foundation of those who devoted their lives and gave their lives entirely for Jesus Christ, and being built into a unity. That is the grace that has been given to us, and that is who we are. That is the important thing that we have to begin to learn to define ourselves as.
We have to get our focus off of this world with all of its ugliness and we need to get our focus onto God and onto who we truly are as members of the household of God, as His own children, and therefore sharing in the divine life and being part of the very building, which is not a physical structure as we think of a building, but rather it is a living temple just like our bodies, a living temple of the Holy Spirit. That is what all of us are called to be, which also tells us how we are to live: as holy people, as members of the household of God, as children of God, as living members of the temple of God. That is our dignity. We need to be able to really embrace this. It is not just a nice idea. It is not just some cute thing that is out there that we can say, “What a neat idea that Saint Paul stumbled upon.” This is divine inspiration. Saint Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, came to understand how this was working. He was trying to help his Gentile converts to see who they are; and in helping them to see who they are, he helps us to see who we are. Their dignity is something in which we also have a share because it is an equal dignity, and the beauty of it is that it does not matter what we can call our earthly homeland, it does not matter where we come from, what color our skin is, or anything else. All that matters is that we are all one in Jesus Christ, that we are all members of the household of God, that we are all citizens of heaven, that we are all children of the same Father, and that we are all members – living members – of the same temple of the Holy Spirit growing to the glory of God and for greater holiness for each and every one of the individuals who make up that holy temple.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.