Tuesday February 27, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 35:1-12) Gospel (Mark 10:28-31)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us that anything that we give up for Him we are going to receive back a hundredfold. A hundredfold in this life and (as He points out) weíre going to be persecuted. Usually, we tend not to like that part. Yet that itself becomes a sacrifice that we can offer for the Lord. When we think about offering a sacrifice to the Lord, we can go back to what we heard in the first reading about offering different sacrifices . For instance, in Sirach weíre told if we keep the Law, if we keep the commandments of God, this in itself is a great oblation. Works of charity are like a flour offering. He talks about refraining from evil, but especially he says ,"Do not appear before the Lord empty-handed." Remember the man who came back to the Lord with the little bag of money that he had hid in the ground because he was afraid? The Lord condemned him for that. Well, he didnít even come empty-handed. But he came, basically, with nothing of his own. We need to be able to come before the Lord offering Him sacrifice. God requires sacrifice. He doesnít require that we offer animal sacrifices and things like that. Heís not requiring blood sacrifices at this point, because He did that for us. His own Son went to the Cross. So we can always come with the blood of His Son. We donít need to offer anything new as far as that goes. But if we are going to be members of Jesus Christ, we have to share His sacrifice. Therefore, we need to offer ourselves as an oblation to the Lord. If we are going to follow the Law, part of that is to offer sacrifice to God.
So as we are preparing now to begin Lent tomorrow, we can ask ourselves, "What kind of sacrifice can I offer to the Lord?" The Lord isnít interested in how much money youíre giving. He doesnít care. What he cares about, though, is the spirit with which we do it. For instance, we see that in Sirach it says, "With each contribution show a cheerful countenance and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy." Whether itís money or whether itís anything else that youíre giving up, do it with a spirit of joy. If youíre not giving something up, but rather taking something on (thinking about extra prayer, for instance , or doing some extra charity work, or whatever it might be), we have to do it with joy. Thatís the part we have to understand. Itís not a matter merely of going through the motions. Itís not the external things. Itís what is on the inside that the Lord is really going to be looking at. Did we give with a spirit of charity? Did we give with a joyful countenance? Are we really seeking to sacrifice ourselves? Itís not a matter of when we get to Heaven that the Lord is going to say, "How much money did you put in the collection basket?" Itís a matter that Heís going to look at us and say, "How important was I to you? Were you willing to give of yourself?" When we look at the crucifix and see what God was willing to give for us, then we can ask ourselves, "What are we willing to give for God?" Are we willing to give time everyday for prayer? Are we willing to sacrifice the little pleasures in life that weíre attached to? We could really make a beautiful sacrifice to God by giving some of those things up. Are we willing to give up the things that are very important to us? Not the essential things, thatís not necessarily what Heís asking, but we have a lot of nonessential things in our lives that we could give up.
The Lord really gets to the essence of it all when He talks about homes, children, spouses, and things like that. Are we willing even to let go? That doesnít mean to go home and throw your kids out of the house or throw your spouse out. Thatís obviously not what He means. What Heís talking about is the need to be detached from our children, our spouses, and our belongings. Ultimately, if we give them to the Lord, if we consecrate them to the Lord, they belong to Him. Theyíre not ours. He has entrusted them to our care, but they donít belong to us. Theyíre not our property. So we need to let go. We need to be detached so that the Lord can do with their lives just as He can do with ours: Whatever He chooses. If we can let go so that we can have God, not only do we receive spouses, children, homes, and all the other things, but a hundredfold as much because we receive God. Thatís really what we want. We want to be filled with God. Since those people who are our loved ones belong to God, if we have God we have our loved ones. Plus, we have all the others who are in God. Not in a selfish way, not in an attached way, but out of true charity. Thatís the kind of sacrifice the Lord is looking for. Itís easy to toss a little money into a collection basket. Itís hard to let go of things that weíre attached to.
As we prepare for Lent tomorrow, maybe thatís the thing to really look at. What are we attached to? If youíre attached to money, then give it up. If youíre attached to other things, give that up. Offer a sacrifice to the Lord. If weíre willing to do that, it is truly a sacrifice of praise. It is dying to self, a giving of the self so that we can show God the disposition of our hearts. Thatís what He wants. To come before Him cheerfully, not to drag our feet and say,"Alright, I guess I have to do it." Rather, to be able to offer it to the Lord out of love. To give to Him in return for what He has given to us. When we think about it again, just look at the crucifix. and ask yourself for tomorrow, or for the next six weeks (really, for the rest of your life), just ask yourself one simple question, the same one as the psalmist asked: "What can I give to the Lord in return for His kindness to me?"
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.