Thursday June 23, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:21-29)
In the Gospel reading today, we are told that when the people heard the Lord’s teaching they were astonished because He taught with authority and not like their scribes. The thing we have to understand as we listen to these words from the Lord’s teaching is that He was not simply speaking them the way that we just read them. They obviously had some pretty strong emphasis. When you listen to the words that He is speaking and then put a strong emphasis on them, you realize that we will be stung to the heart if we really listen to the words.
Again, just listen to what He says: I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evildoers. These are people who said, “Lord, didn’t we do all these things in Your Name? We called on Your holy Name! We cast out demons! We did mighty works! We did all kinds of things in Your Name!” And He says, Get away from Me! I never knew you. What about us, who call upon the Name of the Lord? Are we truly living the life? Otherwise, we are going to be cast away. He goes on to tell us exactly what He means in this manner. If our house is built solidly on rock – and Jesus Himself is the Rock – then we are going to be fine. But if the house is built on sand, then it is going to get blown over.
Anything less than Jesus is sand. We can make a house that looks really nice, but when the day comes we are going to say, “But, Lord, Lord, didn’t I build a house that looked just like the one the person next to me built?” It does not matter what the house looked like; it matters what the foundation of the house was. If what we want is to make it look impressive, then put it on a foundation where it is going to be solid. All the impressive words in the world are not going to impress God. All the impressive deeds in the world, if they are done selfishly or for some sort of illicit gain, are not going to impress God. We have to be doing the Will of God.
Saint Paul condemns those who will use religion for profit. He says, “There is great profit in religion, but it is not about the monetary profit – it is about the profit of the soul.” Our Lord tells us that we are to store up treasure in heaven. If that is the case, we need to be careful that we are not calling upon the Lord for selfish reasons, that we are not giving Him lip service while our hearts are far from Him, that we are not just running around doing all kinds of things trying to make ourselves look good. We truly have to be serving Him, and we have to be seeking to do His Will because He said, Anyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is the one who builds his house on rock, and anyone who hears these words of Mine but does not put them into practice is the one who builds on sand.
So that really needs to be our examination of conscience. Are we really living what Our Lord told us? Are we being faithful to His words? Are we being faithful to Him? Or are we merely giving Him lip service so that we look good? The words of Our Lord astonished the people because He taught with authority, and the authority of the Lord is the authority of God Himself. When He heard what these people said, He told them, Get away from Me, you evildoers, because I don’t know you. Those are not authoritative words that we want to hear on the Day of Judgment. If we do not want to hear those words on the Day of Judgment, then the Lord makes very clear – with all the authority of His divine power and all the weight of His divinity – what we have to do. We have to hear His words and act upon them.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.