Thursday September 22, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Haggai 1:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 9:7-9)
In the first reading today, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai and says, This people says: “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” You have to remember that this is the very reason why the people came back. They came back from exile precisely because God had appeared to King Cyrus, or had at least in some manner made it known to him through revelation that the Lord wanted a house built in Judah, in Jerusalem. He sent all of the Jewish people back so that they could rebuilt the house of the Lord. Of course, when they came back they had to build a house for their own selves, for their families, and the Lord was certainly not going to hold that against them. However, what happened is that they started to build fancy places, to fix up their own places, and they kept looking at themselves and saying, “It’s not yet time to rebuild the house of the Lord; I still have this, that, and the other thing that I want to do with my own house.” That was where the Lord spoke through the prophet and said, Is it time for you to live in your own paneled houses, while My house lies in ruins?
We need, then, to look at our own situation and ask: What would we do? How would we deal with things? If something were to happen, or even just as it is in our own lives, is the Lord the top priority? Again, I am not suggesting if we were somehow exiled that the Lord is going to expect that we would first and foremost build a church before we would build anything that we would be able live in, because obviously there has to be shelter for the people. But it is a question of the selfishness, that we are going to put ourselves first and we want to make sure that we are all completely taken care of before we would do anything for the Lord. That is a problem. That is, quite honestly, the American way. Of course, the American way these days is that we would not even think to build a house for the Lord. We would think to build a casino, but we would not think to build a house for the Lord, because, after all, what is more important? As the Lord makes clear, people who do that earn wages which are nothing more than a bag with a hole in it – everything falls right through; it is worthless. If we do not have our priorities straight, what good is it?
As we have been watching in this society some of the natural disasters that have taken place, in the midst of emergencies people will suddenly have faith. They suddenly turn to the Lord – either to pray or to curse Him, but in this case assuming the ones that are going to pray – but as soon as the emergency is over, so is their faith. God is not first. God is there only as the little placebo or the little helper that we are supposed to turn to only when we need Him. Well, as we know, we need Him for everything, not just in emergencies but for everything. We need to turn to Him.
If we do not have the Lord first in our lives, then He becomes as He was for Herod in the Gospel: a point of curiosity, a point of selfishness. Do I want God in my life because I think that I can benefit from it? Once again, it is the wrong reason. Certainly there is immense benefit by having God in your life, but that would be like saying, “Well, do I want to marry this person because I can get something from it?” It is the wrong reason. You marry somebody out of love, because of what you can give. So it is with Our Lord. We want Him and need Him in our lives, but not because of what we can get from it, not for personal gain, but because it is what is right and proper, because He is God and He deserves our love, and He deserves our worship, and He deserves our service, and we could go right down the line. On the other hand, looking at the analogy of marriage, yes, you receive the gift of your spouse and all that your spouse gives to you, and so it is with God. We receive the Lord and all that He will do for us, but it cannot be our intention to enter into the relationship just to see what we can get out of it. That is entirely selfish and it is the opposite of love.
So that is the part we have to look at. Why do we want the Lord in our lives? If it is because there is an emergency and we think that we need Him all of a sudden when we have not needed Him before, when we are doing it because of what we can get out of it, when we are doing it because of curiosity, these are all the wrong reasons. We need God in our lives, period. We have an obligation to love Him, to love Him first and foremost, to put Him before all else. That is the challenge that is placed before us: to make sure we are dying to self, getting rid of all the selfishness in our lives, so that we can have our priorities right. And the top priority is to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.