Thursday February 24, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Jeremiah 17:5-10) Gospel (St. Luke 16:19-31)
We hear the words in the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah today, and they are pretty harsh: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings…More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can endure it? These are things that we need to look at pretty seriously because these are not just slight little rebukes that the Lord is giving. Cursed, the Lord says, is the man who trusts in human beings.
Now if we simply look at what we tend to do, most of us tend to put an awful lot of trust in things that we can see or touch, for instance, money, material things, other people. But when it comes to trusting God, most of us really do not trust Him very much at all. If we really looked at it and if we were really honest with ourselves, not only do we tend to trust other people more, but most tragically we trust ourselves about 98% more than we trust God. Yet we have proven to our own selves, how many thousands of times in our lives, that we are completely untrustworthy, and so if we are untrustworthy in dealing with our own self, why would we trust somebody else? Yet God, Who is perfectly trustworthy, we do not trust because the heart is the problem. We get stuck trying to deal with things that we can sense, things that are going to go away, things that are not eternal, things that will eventually rot or disintegrate or whatever it might be. In essence, we are putting our faith and our trust in dust, whereas the One Who created us, the One Who loves us perfectly, we do not trust because we cannot see Him or hear Him or touch Him. What we have to do is operate according to faith.
It is the same point that is made in the Gospel when Dives says to Abraham, “Send Lazarus to my brothers, otherwise they’ll wind up in this place of torment as well.” And Abraham says to Dives, “They have Moses, they have the prophets. Let them listen to them.” They do not want to listen to Moses and the prophets because that has to do with God. Then he says, “Even if someone should rise from the dead they will not believe,” because, once again, it requires faith. It is not about the flesh that someone has who has risen from the dead (because we have that), but it requires something beyond, something which we cannot explain; and because we cannot get a grasp on it, what we tend to do is reject it. That is precisely what happens.
If we look at the situation of the Gospel and put it into our own lives, what many people tend to do when bad things happen, when they are hungry, when they are not feeling well, is that they tend to get angry at God and walk away from the faith because their physical nature is not feeling well. Once again, we are focusing on flesh, we are focusing on material things, whereas we need to keep our focus on God. This is not easy. It is a lot easier to focus on things we can see and touch and feel and hear and so on, but all that is passing away. God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Saint Paul says. We need to take these words seriously when God tells us that if we put our trust in human beings rather than in God that we are cursed. That is pretty serious. Those are not just words of warning; these are serious words that God Himself is telling us, that if we do not have our hearts in the right place we are going to be cursed. So it is incumbent upon us to get our focus off of the things of the world and put them onto God. That is not an easy thing; it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time, repeatedly, over and over and over again, trying to keep our focus on God because when bad things happen we pull our focus off of God and when things are going real well we pull our focus off of God. The devil gets us either way and we see just how tortuous our own hearts are.
We need to learn to get to the point where our hearts are stable, where they are fixed on God, and they are not going to be pulled away no matter how good or bad things seem to be going. That is what we have to be about, to keep the focus on Jesus Christ and not on ourselves and not on other people, but to keep it where it belongs – on the One Who remains always the same, on the One Who will never change. Otherwise, everything else is passing away, and that upon which we have placed our trust will be gone. And what remains? Nothing. We will spend our time, then, with Dives for the rest of eternity where we will be focused on ourselves because the way we spent our time was focused on ourselves. But if we spend time focused on God, then we will spend our eternity focused on God. The Lord makes very clear that is what it will be: Blessed are they who trust in the Lord. That is what we have to be about. So we have placed before us, once again, the blessing and the curse: cursed if we place our trust in human beings – including our own self – but blessed are we if we place our trust in God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.