Friday October 29, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Philippians 1:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 14:1-6)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul prays for the people of Philippi that they would have the grace from God to grow ever more in love in order to be able to discern what is of value. And then he says that it is in doing that that they will be able to be pure and blameless on the day of Jesus Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Christ for the glory of God. Now if we just think about what it is that he is saying, that if we truly want to be able to stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment being the way that Our Lord has commanded us to be – that is, to bear fruit and to bear it abundantly, to love God and to love neighbor, to truly have our priorities correct – then the first thing we have to strive for is charity, the love of God and the love of neighbor. It is when you put love first that all the other priorities begin to fall into place.
If we just think about it in a human relationship, for instance, it is an interesting thing if you look at a young male who never seems to have time for anything – until he meets a girl – and then suddenly he finds all kinds of time to do all sorts of things because he is in love, so he thinks. But he will do most anything for this girl, and where he finds the time to do it and where he comes up with the ideas of what to do is something that not even he understands because he has never been able to do such a thing before. Well, if that is what happens on a human level, think what will happen when it is on a divine level, when we are truly loving God and when we are loving our neighbor with the love of God.
When we truly love God then the discernment will be clear and it will be proper. That is, when God is the top priority in our lives, everything else falls into its proper position and then we can truly see clearly what is really good, what is really valuable, what is really worthwhile. That is where you see the saints working through all kinds of attachments that they have, breaking all of those things, and so on, because the love of God surpasses everything. When they are in love with God they will do anything for Him. Again, when we read the lives of the saints, we see them doing extraordinary things. We look at ourselves and sometimes we say, “Oh, there’s no way I could ever do that,” and there are other times we would say, “There’s no way I ever would do that!” If we were really in love with God and that was His Will for us, we would not even hesitate to do it.
What we have to be striving for is that love for God. We get so confused because we are in love with so many things. We love our TV. We love all of our fancy food. We love all of our material junk. And, because we are in love with ourselves and we are in love with the world, we cannot love God the way we are supposed to; therefore, our intellects are clouded so that we cannot discern properly what it is that we are supposed to be doing. We cannot discern what is of true value because we have put things that are not of true value in front of the one thing that has the greatest value. Tragically, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us have to admit that God is not the top priority in our lives. If we were honest, most of us would have to say, “I am the top priority in my life.” That is a pretty sad statement, but it is a reality. Then we look at the rest of it and say, “Gee, I’d really like to be pure and blameless on the day of the Lord.” How? By being selfish? It can’t happen. “I really want to have abundant fruit for Christ on the Day of Judgment.” By being focused on our own self and our own desires? It can’t happen.
If we want to do what we are commanded to do, if we truly want to live the life that we profess, then it requires doing exactly what Our Lord told us. It is the greatest commandment in the law, so it is not something that is new to us. It is not something that is so difficult for us that we cannot figure it out, but it is a matter that we have to want it – and that is to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It means to put God first and put others second and put the self last. That is where most of us get in trouble. We put ourselves first, we put others next, and then we have God in there somewhere. The order needs to get reversed. When we have God first, when we are filled with the love of God, then we will be pure and blameless before God, then we will be bearing abundant fruit for the Lord, and then our lives will be exactly what Saint Paul prayed for these people, that they will be for the greater honor and glory of God. Isn’t that what all of us really want our lives to be about anyway? It is very simple as to how it needs to happen: Love God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.