Monday February 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Daniel 9:4b-10) Gospel (St. Luke 6:36-38)
In the first reading today, the prophet Daniel speaks on behalf of all the people of Israel, and certainly speaks exactly what any one of us can say: We have sinned, been wicked and done what is evil; we have rebelled and departed from Your commandments and laws. We have not obeyed Your servants the prophets…and on he goes. Can any one of us suggest that we have actually done anything different? We have chosen sin; we have chosen rebellion. The real tragedy is that in our society people do not even realize that that is what is happening. Our Holy Father, a number of years ago, said, “One of the greatest problems in our world is the loss of the sense of sin.” People do not even know what a sin is anymore. They are offending God left and right and do not even realize it.
Of course, part of that is they do not even recognize God. So it is important that we look at how Daniel began his prayer: Lord, great and awesome God… We need to recognize the glory of God. We need to understand Who He is. Not just in our minds to be able to acknowledge that He is omnipotent and He is infinite and so on, but we need to know it in our hearts in a relational way, because it is when we get down into the heart that we are going to be able to understand why these things are so offensive, not just understand theoretically but practically, because we have a greater insight into Who He is; and because we have a greater insight into Who He is, we therefore have a greater understanding of what it is that He expects of us, what it is that is offensive to Him and why.
It is the same thing with any relationship. For those who are married, you understand very well that there are some things that are offensive to your spouse. And because your spouse finds some of these things offensive, even though you might not have thought at one time in your life that it was the least bit offensive, you have now come to understand that this offends this person and therefore you do not do it because you do not want to offend somebody whom you love.
That is the same way it is, except even more, in our relationship with God. It is not just a matter of recognizing objectively that this thing is wrong and therefore thinking, “Because it’s on a list of sins I guess I’d better not do it,” but rather it has to do with the reason. It is wrong because it offends God and we would not want to do it because we do not want to offend somebody that we love, not merely because there is a rule that says “This is what you do not do” or “This is what you should do” because when that is the case then when we decide that we want to do it our way anyhow we are going to rebel and we are going to sin. Whereas when we truly love somebody, then we are going to be much more apt to do what we know to be right and pleasing to that other person. In this case, the person is God.
Now if we are going to do what is pleasing to God, what is it going to look like? Jesus tells us exactly in the Gospel: Stop judging, stop condemning, forgive, give. These are the things that He is looking for. We, on the one hand, are saying, “We have rebelled, we have sinned, we have been disobedient,” and Jesus is saying what we need to do is quit judging other people, stop condemning other people, that we need to forgive other people, and we need to give to other people. These are not things that come easily or naturally to anyone in our society. It is a human problem in the first place, but in a society that is as selfish and sinful as ours these things do not come naturally. We have to work at it. But again, if we are in a close relationship with the Lord, then these things will come more naturally because we will recognize that these are the things that are pleasing to Him and therefore we are going to do them, not simply because He commanded us to do them (because He commanded us a long time ago and we still do not do them) but rather because out of love we are going to want to do what is pleasing and good and right.
That is what Our Lord is asking of us: to be like God. Well, the only way you are going to be like God is to get close to Him, to love Him, to enter deeply into that relationship with Him. It is the only possible way that you are going to be like God. It is not just making your external actions look good; it is a matter of changing the whole interior disposition so that we truly are good in the way that we are dealing with things. It is very clearly laid out what it is that we are directed to do by Our Lord and what it is that we know that we do on our own. And so we need to pray; we need to enter into the depths of our hearts and seek union with Christ there. That union with Christ will make us more Christ-like, and when we are more Christ-like then we will stop sinning, we will stop rebelling, and we will be obedient. Not obedient because we are forced to do something, but obedient because of love – and because we love Him, we will do whatever we can to please Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.