Monday June 6, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:1-12)
When we read the Beatitudes today in the Gospel, the very things that Our Lord tells us are the things that will make us happy. That is what the word Beatitude means: “blessed” or “happy.” And the things that are supposed to make us happy are the very things that society suggests should not make us happy. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on. Then He comes down to the point of the persecutions and the sufferings and the afflictions and all the problems and difficulties, and He tells us that these are the things we should rejoice in. It is exactly what we hear in the first reading. Saint Paul says, Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then goes on to talk about all the sufferings, all the difficulties and afflictions that they are experiencing, and he is able to say, We experience the overflow of the afflictions of Christ and therefore we are encouraged.
Now most of us get discouraged when we have to share in the suffering of Christ. But here Saint Paul is saying: We are encouraged and God Himself is the one who encourages us. Therefore, we are able to encourage you with the same encouragement with which God encourages us, because we know that as you share in the sufferings so you will also share in the encouragement. That, again, is not what we would naturally assume. But here it is, the very first thing that Saint Paul is talking about in this letter. This is from the beginning of the Second Letter to the Corinthians. This is how he begins; it is not just some side point. It is what Saint Paul wants the Corinthians to know. And the point he is trying to make to them is that if they are willing to share in Christ’s suffering they will share in the encouragement.
But isn’t that exactly what Our Lord tells us anyway? that our reward in heaven will be great if we are persecuted, if we suffer, if these things happen to us for righteous reasons? Obviously, if we are out doing stupid things and we cause ourselves to suffer, well, we deserved it. But if we are being persecuted or if we are suffering and sharing in the suffering of Christ for the very things that are right and proper, this is something that God considers to be blessed. And He tells us that in the midst of it all we will have His encouragement. More than that, when it is all finished, then ours is the reward that has been promised – and the reward is nothing less than heaven. That is what the Lord is telling us.
So in this society which shuns suffering at all costs, which runs as fast as it can from anything that seems unpleasant, the Gospel tells us exactly the opposite. Saint Paul tells us the opposite. Every one of the saints who has ever lived tells us exactly the opposite. And so we really need to ask ourselves, “Now which one is right?” Not, “Which one are we attracted to?” because that is pretty evident, but, “Which one is right?” We have the Word of God making it explicit, and not just in these two readings either. Basically, every book of the New Testament will tell you the same thing. If every saint in the history of the Church tells us the same thing and Jesus Himself teaches this to us, it should be pretty evident which one is right and which one is wrong.
Obviously, this society which does not know Christ, this society which hates the truth, this society which will do everything it can to bury the Cross is telling us that we should not have to suffer, is telling us to run the other way. Society is wrong on most every point. If that is the case, why are we so intent on listening to it? Why are we so intent on shunning the Word of God to listen to the word of Satan? It does not make sense, except that the word that Satan is preaching to us sounds more pleasant than the Word of God.
The Word of God is hard. Saint Paul tells us that it cuts like a two-edged sword and it is going to separate everything. And so it does. We have that choice once again of which voice we are going to listen to, which path we are going to walk. If we are going to listen to the voice of Christ, we are going to walk the path of Calvary. It is narrow and it is rough and it leads to eternal life in heaven. If we want to walk according to the path society lays out for us, then it is smooth, it is wide, it is easy, and it also leads to eternity – but not with God. There is only one reasonable choice: to share in the suffering of Christ so as to share in the encouragement.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.