Friday October 28, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saints Simon and Jude
Reading (Ephesians 2:19-22) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-16)
In the first reading from his Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but rather we are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God. Now if we think about what this really implies for us, it is not an easy task. It is something which is, of course, a great blessing, but not an easy one. Think, for instance, about the twelve names we heard just a few moments ago of the twelve apostles. When it comes down to the apostles whom we celebrate today, Saint Simon was called a zealot, meaning that he was zealous for the political Messiahship and the return of glory to the state of Israel. Then we have Saint Jude, the poor man who has the same name as the one who was a traitor. Yet, at the same time, these twelve men had to learn to live together. Remember, James and John were called “the sons of thunder” because they had a little bit of an anger problem. Peter, we all know about how he dealt with things on a number of occasions, and Thomas with all of his struggles and doubts and so on. All these men had to live together in one little group. They had to learn how to get along together–not an easy task.
We look at religious life and put a whole number of people from different backgrounds into one monastery or convent, and the whole goal and challenge is that they are supposed to live together in charity. This is not an easy task either. Yet what we see is a microcosm of the Mystical Body. That is what God is asking of each and every one of us. When we look around the chapel, we not only see persons of the opposite sex, but we see people with different colored skin, we see people with different backgrounds, with different personalities, with different ways of looking at things; all completely valid, not that anything is heterodox or anything else, but we are very different as far as persons go. Yet we are all members of the same household. Therefore, God is asking that each and every one of us would simply be completely filled with charity toward one another.
Now it is easy to be filled with charity toward people that you like, people who agree with you, but it is not so easy when somebody’s personality rubs you the wrong way. God is not asking necessarily that you would be the best of friends; He is asking that you would treat people with charity. That is where the hardship comes in for us, to be able to look at one another and realize that we are members of the same body. What happens if we are filled with contempt for one another? What would that do in your body? Just think of what happens in your own self. You would spend most of your life at the doctor if your own body parts were in contempt toward one another because you would be destroying yourself. Remember what Our Lord even said about Satan: If Satan is divided against himself, his kingdom is going to fall. Yet what do we do within the Mystical Body of Christ? We divide ourselves into categories that are invalid. Sometimes we look at people with prejudice, or even worse with bigotry. We reject people outright because of the color of their skin or where they are from. Sometimes we look at national boundaries and we say, “Oh, you’re from that country. You’re the enemy.” How can they be the enemy if they are Catholic? We can look at different personalities and we write people off because we do not like them.
That is not the way the Lord required His apostles to be. That is not the example that is allowed in religious life. While we are not called necessarily to be living in a convent or a monastery, we are called to the same principles that govern the life of those who are called to that vocation. So we need, each one, to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves if we are truly living according to the charity that the Lord requires. Are we really built on this foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone? If that is the case then the grace flowing from the top down needs to be flowing through us as it does through each and every person here. If we are built on the apostles and the prophets, it is upon their teaching, it is upon their example, and that is the way we have to live.
All of us are members of the same body, of the same family. Just ponder the fact that each of us is going to receive Holy Communion in just a few moments and every Catholic around the world who receives Holy Communion receives the exact same Christ. That means that the Christ Who is in you is exactly identical to the Christ Who is in the person next to you, or the person across the world, or the person whom you personally hate the most if that person is Catholic. Then we just have to say, “You know what, if Jesus loves that person, how come I don’t? If Jesus loves that person so much that He is willing to be one with that individual as He is willing to be one with me, how can I hold that person in contempt? How can I be bigoted or prejudiced? How can I be angry or hateful?” If the Lord is not, why do we think it is okay for us? Are we going to suggest that somehow we have a right to this when God Himself would not even do it?
We can look at that in our own lives and ask ourselves as we look around in our lives: Who do we not like? Who do we hold in contempt? Against whom do we practice any form of prejudice or bigotry? We need to look at that, not by pointing the finger at the other, but by looking at our own self and recognizing that the weakness lies in us because all of us are members of the same body, the same household of Christ. All of us are built upon the same foundation of the apostles and prophets. All of us have as the capstone the same Jesus Christ. If we reject one another, if the kingdom of Christ is divided, how do we expect that it is going to survive? How do we expect to be an example in the world? How do we expect to call people to unity in Christ when we do not even have it? So it needs to start with ourselves, not by pointing a finger at anyone else, but by looking at ourselves and asking the simple question: Am I practicing the kind of charity that Jesus would require of His apostles and of the example that we see in those who are called to the monastic life?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.