Monday May 23, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 17:20-24) Gospel (St. Mark 10:17-27)
We have in the readings today two points along the path to holiness. The first is from Sirach, where we are told that God provides the penitent a way back, He encourages those who are losing hope, and He gives to them all the grace they need to be able to repent. Then he goes on to say that we are to return to Him. We are to give up our sin, we are to pray and make our offenses few, and then we are to loathe whatever God loathes. That is what we really need to be about: getting to the point where we hate whatever God hates.
God hates sin. The problem is most of us are just way too in love with sin. We have all kinds of things we do that are not right, but we do not want to give them up because we like them too much and we are afraid to give them up. Sometimes we are afraid to give them up because of what other people will think. “I won’t be like all the others anymore. At least I’m not committing mortal sin,” we try to justify ourselves by saying. Neither was the man in the Gospel. He was following all of the Ten Commandments, and when Jesus challenged him to go a step further, the man walked away sad. Our Lord, in reply, did not say, “As long as you’re following the Ten Commandments you’re going to be able to get into heaven.” Instead, He said, How hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven, and then also, How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whether we like to admit it or not, that is every last one of us. Material wealth is something that is going to rot us and destroy us if we allow it to. Poverty, on the other hand, is the way we are going to be able to rely on God and trust Him. That is a very difficult thing, because even if we do not want to admit it, I think most of us would have to say that we trust an awful lot in money. Even though the bills all say “In God We Trust,” the reality is we trust more in the money than we do in God. And if the money starts getting short, most of us start getting pretty upset and we realize that instead of turning to God and trusting in Him what we are really doing is turning to the money.
We see the progress needed, then, if we are really going to grow in the spiritual life. First, we need to get rid of sin. We need to follow the Ten Commandments and to live accordingly. But then the Lord will say to us, There is one thing more. He is going to challenge us to get rid of the very things that we like, and He will challenge us to do some things that we do not like very well. He is going to put us into situations where virtue is going to be tried and tested. He will ask us to be patient with somebody, and He will not remove that person from our lives because that would be too easy. He is going to ask us to practice charity in a situation where we would much rather run the other way. Or we are going to try to justify ourselves by saying, “I have a right to be angry about this!” And what good is it doing? He is going to ask us to do some very hard things because He is really asking us the question: Do you want to enter the kingdom of God? Do you want to be a child of God? Or do you want to be a child of this world – or worse? That is the choice we have to make.
It is by striving for true holiness, true perfection, to hate what God hates. God does not just hate mortal sin – God hates sin. Period. If we are going to hate what God hates, then we need to get rid of sin, all of it. And I do not assume that God is too terribly amused that we do not trust Him. And I do not think He likes the fact that we are in love with ourselves. So we have some work that we have to do, and it is not easy. Isn’t that what Our Lord said? How hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we have got it made, because we do not, necessarily. We need to rely on God and we need to rely on Him solely. That is very, very hard for any of us because there is way too much around us that we think we can rely on; and if that is not there then we think we can rely on ourselves. Well, if that is the case, just go home and look in the mirror. All you have to do is say, “What a fool if you try to rely on yourself.”
How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. In fact, the Lord said, For man it is impossible. We cannot do it ourselves. But thanks be to God Who is merciful, Who does give us that way back if we are willing to repent, if we are willing to change our lives. The grace is there and it will be there for each and every one of us if we are willing to accept it. Therefore, the other half of what Our Lord said will apply to each one of us: For God all things are possible – even to get the likes of us to heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.