Monday November 22, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5) Gospel (St. Luke 21:1-4)
We hear in the first reading today about the Lamb, who, we heard the other day, is the lion of the tribe of Judah (of course, we recognize Him to be Our Lord) and He is on Mount Zion. Mount Zion is Jerusalem. So He is there in the New Jerusalem, and it is in this New Jerusalem that He has His hundred and forty-four thousand who have been ransomed from the earth. They are without blemish. They are the ones who have fully lived their life for the Lord. What exactly that hundred and forty-four thousand is, nobody really knows. But when it talks about the fact that they are unblemished, there are two possible ways one can see that: either they have simply been purified or they have never committed a mortal sin. We know that certainly there are a number of saints who have done that, and so I suppose, in the history of the world, maybe there are a hundred and forty-four thousand people who have never committed a mortal sin, who have lived their lives in union with Jesus Christ and therefore, out of love for Him, have given everything.
That is precisely what we see in the Gospel reading. It is not about money, in this case; it is about their life. We hear about the poor widow who puts in the two little coins, and Our Lord says that she gave more than everyone else because they gave from their surplus wealth while she gave her entire livelihood. If we consider the generous souls who would be among these hundred and forty-four thousand, what it tells us is that they have not done anything which is seriously selfish. Certainly, they are affected by Original Sin like the rest of us, and therefore they have to overcome the effects of that; but most of us, throughout our life at some point, make some pretty stupid decisions and we fall headlong into mortal sin. The reason is ultimately because we are not focused on Christ but on the self and on some desire that we have for something which is not proper. As we give into that and then we try to turn things around, we find that we tend to be fairly stingy with the Lord. Maybe we will give of some of the surplus. Maybe what we will do is to say, “Well, at least I’ll get rid of the mortal sins, but the venial ones I really don’t care about.” Maybe what we do is just turn our lives over partway, the part that really does not hurt very much. But when we look at this poor widow and then we apply it to ourselves, we can say, “This is somebody who is fully generous with the Lord. They are giving everything to Him. They are not holding back, and so it is their whole life. It is not about money; it is their entire being. They have given their whole heart to Christ; they have given their whole life to Christ; they are willing to suffer with Him; they are willing to be crucified with Him; they are willing to be completely rejected with Him; they are willing to do whatever it is that He desires for them to do.” These are the generous souls who have given what would appear to be so little in a worldly way, and yet they have given it all. What an acceptable sacrifice that is to God! They are not holding back anything. They love God so much that they are willing to give everything to Him.
Now in the history of the Church there are such souls who have done this, and certainly many, many more than what we are aware of. But among those who are canonized saints, there are only about three or four thousand in two thousand years. Here we are hearing about a hundred and forty-four thousand. Maybe these are just those generous souls who have given everything to the Lord, and, as it says, they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. That is exactly what these people did in their lives, and it is what they are going to do in heaven. They will do God’s Will. They will follow Jesus and they will live His life all the time. That is what we want to be striving for, that kind of generosity of heart, that kind of willfulness within our own selves to do whatever God wills so that we will also be among those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes, that we will be the ones who will stand before the throne in robes that have been purified in the blood of the Lamb, and that we will have been found worthy, not because we gave of the surplus, not because we gave what really did not hurt, not because we gave what would be the most obvious, but because we gave it all, because we looked at what He has done for us and we have chosen to do the same for Him, to hold back nothing, to do His Will in all things, to give it all, and to follow the Lamb wherever He leads.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.