Tuesday November 16, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22) Gospel (St. Luke 19:1-10)
In the first reading today, we hear (as the Spirit continues to speak to the seven churches of Asia) some of the problems that all of us will deal with in the spiritual life. It has been pointed out by many commentators that as you look at the various characteristics that are listed about each of the churches, somewhere in there is every possible way that a person can be in the spiritual life. That is, a person can be completely faithful as we saw yesterday, someone who starts out with a great love for the Lord and then loses it. We have the one who is completely a phony like the one today from Sardis where He says, I know your reputation of being hot when in fact you are cold. And then we have the one from Laodicea who is just lukewarm and is going to be spit out of Our Lord’s mouth.
We can look at our own selves in some of these things. We can ask, “Was I once on fire with love for the Lord, and has that fire now cooled? Do I try to put up a nice front and look good when in fact there’s really not that much there? Am I just simply lukewarm? Do I sit back like the one in Laodicea and say, ‘I’m rich and affluent and I have no need of anything,’ when in fact, as He says, You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked?” The problem is, if we look at our money, we forget to look at God because we do not really want to, because we know what God is going to say to us. So we see there are all these possibilities of the way that we stand in the spiritual life.
What we have to all be about is seeking to truly love the Lord. We have to ask ourselves, “Have I somehow put on the brakes in my relationship with Christ? Maybe things were getting a little too deep for comfort, and therefore I will continue to live externally according to the faith, but internally I’m not willing to open my heart any further to Him.” Are we just simply going through the motions and being lukewarm? Are we getting caught up in worldly things rather than in spiritual things? All of these things we can look at and ask ourselves, “Where do I stand in the spiritual life?”
What we need to do then is look at the Gospel and learn from the example of Zacchaeus, who is not anything unlike us. I guess we could say that spiritually we are all short of stature. We are not able to see very well because spiritually most of us do not stand very tall. So Zacchaeus, wanting to see the Lord, scampered up the tree – but that was not enough. All of us would like to see Jesus, but that is not what it is about, to lay eyes on Him; this is about repenting and changing our lives. That is exactly what Zacchaeus did. He came down and said, “I will give half of my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone I will repay them fourfold.”
Again, we can look at our own selves and ask, “What is it that we really want in our relationship with Christ?” Number one, do we even want a relationship with Christ? Or do we just want to see Him from afar to be able to say, “I laid eyes on Him,” but we do not really want to be in a relationship with Him? Are we willing to truly repent? Or do we just want to be somewhat close without ever changing our lives? We can look at those sorts of questions and realize these are the exact same points that are coming up in the Book of Revelation to the seven churches. Once again, we need to go back and look at those things right in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation (and the second and third, as well) and ask ourselves, “Where do I fit?” because the word spoken to these seven churches are spoken also to us. We realize that the Lord is calling us to a deeper relationship with Himself, and He tells us that if anyone hears His voice and opens the door He will come and dine with them, that the victor will walk in white robes, that they will receive a new name, and all the promises that are made to those who are willing to serve the Lord, those who are willing to draw near to Him in love, those who are willing to enter into their hearts and unite themselves with Christ. But for those who are lukewarm, those who keep the Lord at a distance, those who have fallen away from their early love, and all the other things, there are condemnations that are attached to them.
So we realize what Our Lord is saying is that it not enough to look good. It is not enough to go through the external motions. We have to draw near or we are going to lose what we are seeking. We are going to see Jesus from afar, but we are not going to enter into heaven. And what good is that? Imagine if the most you could do is tell your grandchildren that one day from afar you happened to see the Pope. What if you had the opportunity to meet him, to talk with him, to change your life, but you decided you did not want to do that because all you really wanted to do was lay eyes on Him? What good does it do? That is exactly what we are doing to Jesus. So that is the choice we need to make: Do we just want to see Him from afar or do we really want a relationship with Him? He wants a relationship with us, and He is making it clear that that is what our salvation is dependent on. What we have to do now is get down from the tree and open the door because the Lord wants to stay in our house, in our hearts. But before He can, we have to repent and we have to open our hearts and let Him in.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.