Monday September 26, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Zechariah 8:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 9:46-50)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells all of us: The one who is the least among you is the one who is the greatest. Over the last few days we have heard several times that the reason why God chose us is because we are the least, because we are the worst that He could possibly find. The problem is that in our pride we do not like to think that way. Even if we know it is true, we still buck against it. So the Lord makes very clear that it is in fact not only what we have to accept but it is what we have to live. We have to recognize that we are indeed the least.
This is exactly what Saint Paul told us yesterday, that we have to serve others. He told us that if we are humble we will look at other people as being greater than we and we will not act out of selfishness and we will not act out of vanity. That is not an easy task for us in our fallen nature because pride is at the center of every single sin that we commit and it runs as deep as anything does within us. It is very, very difficult for us to overcome. And so even if in our heads we know that we were chosen because we were the least and the worst, we still do not like to really accept it. The heart is the problem in this case, not the head. We need to get things down inside.
But before we are going to be able to do that, we have to live according to God’s way. Just think about what Our Lord says immediately before He tells us this. He takes a little child and places the child next to Himself and says, Whoever receives this little child receives Me. Well, think of the society we live in. Parents will not even accept children. We live in a society where we contracept, where we sterilize people, where we abort babies, and we are in a situation where married couples – and the very purpose for getting married is to have children; that is the first end purpose of marriage – do not want children. Oh, certainly they want either one or two (three, if the first two have the same sex), but it is not for the child’s sake, it is for their own sake. Children are to be loved for their own sake. They are to be wanted for their own sake. How can we accept the kingdom of God with the simplicity of a child if we do not even want children? We see where the problem is. How can we see that we are the least if we cannot even look at those who by nature are the weakest among us and love them the way we are supposed to?
We have everything completely inverted, and the reason why it is inverted is because our focus is on ourselves. That is where the problem lies. And because the focus is on ourselves, we cannot accept that we are the least because if we are going to be focused on ourselves, we are going to try to convince ourselves that we are the greatest. Why does anyone want to be the greatest? If you are convinced that in this world you are the greatest, unfortunately, the person who thinks he is the greatest in this world is the one who is going to have the deepest place for all eternity in hell. Is that where we want to be? If we want to get caught up in ourselves, that is what we will spend eternity doing: being caught up in ourselves and not caught up in Christ. You see, it is the two eternal realities that begin now.
If we conform ourselves to the Will of God then we will recognize the truth about our own selves, as well as about the reality that God wants us to know. Then we will be able to accept the fullness of what the truth is, whether that is accepting children in marriage, whether that is to be able to accept the kingdom of God with the simplicity of a child, or whether that is to receive a child in His name. It is to recognize the truth about our own selves and to recognize the mercy of God that has been given to us.
Now because our society has gone so far astray, we might actually fall into the trap that the people of Israel did. The Lord had to say, In your eyes this might seem impossible, but should I think it is impossible as well? The Lord is promising us that He will change all of this if we are willing. If we are willing to come before Him and humble ourselves, He will change our hearts. He will turn us around and our hearts will become the dwelling place of God. When they are truly the dwelling place of God, we will be conformed to Christ, to His Will and to His way. No longer, then, will we be caught up in ourselves; from that point forward, our hearts will be the dwelling place of Christ and we will be caught up in Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.