Wednesday August 31, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 1:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 4:38-44)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul says to the Colossians that he always gives thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for them whenever he prays for them because he has heard of their faith in Jesus Christ and the love that they have for all the holy ones. Precisely what we have to understand is the reality and how grateful we have to be because of the gift that God has given us. Saint Paul goes on to talk about the fact that they have already heard the word of truth, the word of the Gospel. That is exactly what has happened for us. Through the mercy of God, we have heard the word of truth, the word that Our Lord came to preach to us and the word that He entrusted to His apostles, and through them to His Church, so that the Gospel would be preached to every creature on earth. The fact that we have had the grace to be able to hear that word and to respond to it is an amazing gift.
Sometimes, we might take that for granted. We get up every morning and come to Mass and we just kind of get used to it after a while. The fact that we are Catholic, we just sort of get used to that after a while. But if we really sit down before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and ponder this gift of faith that has been given to us, how grateful we have to be. What a beautiful, beautiful gift it is that the Lord in His mercy has chosen us. How many others have heard this same Gospel and yet, for whatever reason, they did not turn around, they have not been touched, or perhaps they found it interesting for a time and then wandered away because of the lure of the things of the world. Yet, for each one of us, we have been given the grace to respond, to say “yes” to Jesus Christ, to say “yes” to His Gospel. This is why we have to be so grateful.
Now what we have to do is exactly what Saint Paul talks about in other places. He talks about the faith of the people and their holiness and then exhorts them on to even greater holiness. It is a great gift that we have been able to say “yes;” it is a greater gift to continue to say “yes,” to continue to go deeper, to continue to strive for greater holiness. And greater holiness is nothing more than loving Jesus Christ even more. That is what we really need to think about. If we just simply look into our hearts and ask ourselves, “Do I want to love God more?” it would be a tragic day if we ever get to the point of saying, “No, I think I’m doing just fine. I don’t really want to love Him any more than I do; as long as I’m just where I’m at, that should be all right.” Look at your spouse and look at your children and ask the same question: “Do I want to love my kids or my spouse more? No, I think it’s all right just where it’s at.” I do not think any of us would say that. How much more of God if we are to love Him with our whole heart and soul and strength.
So how grateful we have to be for the gift we have been given, but now the question is: What is the response to the gift we have been given? It has to grow. It has to continue to deepen. The people in the Gospel, when they heard Our Lord preaching and then He went off to the desert place to pray, went in search of Him. They wanted Him. They wanted to hear more of what He had to say, but they wanted to be with Jesus. And if we truly are going to live the faith that we have been given, and that we have been given the grace to respond to, then that must be our desire as well. We want to be where Jesus is; we want to hear His voice; we want to be united with Him. And He told the people that He had to go and preach to others as well. So we can pray for others that they will be converted, that they will hear the Word of God.
The beauty of this is that it is not a private thing; it is not “just me and Jesus.” We want everybody to be saved, we want everybody to know Who the Lord is and to come to the knowledge of His truth. So we can be with Jesus and we can pray for others that they will recognize this beautiful gift and that they too will respond. But we need to pray for one another and we need to pray for ourselves that we will be even more generous in responding to the call of Our Lord, that we will be even more generous in loving Him, and that we will help one another and build one another up so that all of us can strive to be saints together. Just think of the joy that will be in heaven, and think of the joy in our own hearts, if that is the way we would live our lives – to spend it with Jesus and to pray for one another that we will be able to spend eternity with Him, to be able to love Him and to be able to love one another perfectly for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.