Tuesday May 24, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 35:1-12) Gospel (St. Mark 10:28-31)
In the first reading, we hear all about the sacrifices that we have to make to God. Naturally, when we think about sacrifices, we are going to think about things that we can offer up, things that are difficult for us. However, Sirach begins by telling us that keeping the law is a great oblation and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering. Works of charity, he tells us, are like offering fine flour, and in doing so we are offering to God a sacrifice of praise. Refraining from evil, he tells us, is also something which is an atonement, all of these things that we should be doing anyway. It is not necessarily a matter of offering up a holocaust as they would have done in the Old Testament times, but rather it is a matter of doing the very things we are supposed to be doing – but doing them in the right manner – that we are actually able to offer very pleasing and fitting sacrifice to the Lord.
He goes on to tell us: Appear not before the Lord empty-handed. This is a critical point. It does not matter what kind of financial situation a person is in, anybody and everybody can offer sacrifice to the Lord if we simply do it exactly the way that it is laid out here. All of us can follow the commandments. All of us can do works of charity. All of us can do works of justice. In this way, we can make up for sin and we can also bring the Word of God to other people. These sorts of things are going to be very pleasing to the Lord.
Now Sirach tells us that if we approach the Lord in the same way that He has approached us, that is, generously and according to our means, God will repay us sevenfold, but then says something very, very important. He says: Do not offer bribes because these He will not accept. How many of us do exactly that, at times? “Lord, I’ll do this for You, if…” “As long as I get this thing, then I will do this.” “I will offer You …, but…” That is not the way to offer sacrifice to the Lord. It is to be offered purely out of love, not out of what we are going to receive. God will take care of His part – that we do not have to worry about – the problem is on our own behalf. It would be easy to sit back and say, “Well, He’s going to give sevenfold.” Our Lord even went beyond that and said, You will receive a hundredfold in this life. We can look at that and say, “Well, if that’s the case, then let me offer something and I’ll have more for myself.” Wrong attitude. It is not going to work because God will not be bribed. It is not a sacrifice if we are looking for something more for ourselves. The sacrifice has to be done, as we are told in Sirach, with a joyful countenance, with a heart that is full of love. And we do not know what it is that Our Lord is going to ask of us, nor do we know what it is He is going to give back in return. All we need to be worried about is seeking His Will and offering ourselves as a sacrifice to the Lord. That is what He is looking for.
Then the Lord tells us that beyond the hundredfold He is going to give back we are going to be persecuted. That is also essential because no matter how much we would like to have a pure offering being made from these simple hearts of ours, we are not going to be able to do it by ourselves; that all needs to be purified. So the persecution is there to test us, to purify us, so that we will have a pure and beautiful offering to be able to make to the Lord. At this point, we need to try our best to offer a pure sacrifice, but we have to realize that the persecution is what is going to allow us to truly make a pure sacrifice, because when we are being persecuted for the Lord’s sake there is nothing in it for us anymore. We cannot be saying, “Oh, this is so good because I get to be persecuted, and I really like it! Look at what I’m getting in return!” None of us would be so foolish as to say that. At that point, then, the offering becomes pure. It is being done only for the sake of the Lord.
If we are willing to offer that kind of pure sacrifice with a joyful heart, with full acceptance, then Our Lord tells us that we receive a hundredfold in this life and eternal life in the world to come. What greater thing could we ask for? Our task now is to pray so that we will have a pure heart, so that we will have a generous heart, so that we will offer sacrifices to the Lord that He will be pleased with, and that we will be willing and able to accept whatever befalls us and offer that in union with that sacrifice so the sacrifice will be one which is true, which is pure. In that way, offering pure sacrifice to the Lord, it is perfectly acceptable and will gain for us eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.