Tuesday June 12, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 1:18-22) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:13-16)
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus was not alternately "yes" and "no," but always "yes." Now, in the context, what is happening is that the people of
Corinth were accusing Saint Paul of flip-flopping on some of the things he was teaching. Saint Paul says, "No, that is not true. It is always 'yes'." He tells us that the same must be true with each one of us. He says that God has made certain promises and He keeps them. In fact, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of every promise God has made. God is always "yes." It is not alternately "yes" and "no", it is always: "Yes, this is what I told you, this is what I am going to do." He does not change His mind, He does not flip-flop around. He is not somebody about whom we have to wonder what is going to happen next. God is very consistent.
That is what Saint Paul is telling us we have to do, as well. In fact, he says (in order to show how much God is all about "yes" when it comes to us), that not only are we redeemed in Christ, but that God has put the Spirit in our hearts as the first payment. In other words, when we look forward to eternity and we ask the question: "How do we know that God is really going to bring us to Heaven? How can we be sure that this is really true? We cannot see it, we cannot feel it, we cannot grasp it, how do we know?"; we know because the Holy Spirit has been poured forth into our hearts. If God is going to give us Himself in this world, as a sign of the fulfillment of His promises, then we have no doubt when it comes to the other promises. When we see everything fulfilled that He promised with regard to this life, then we have every reason to believe in what He has promised in the next. Now, the question has to do with us, it does not have to do with God. Saint Paul says the same must be true for us. We cannot be "yes" one minute, and "no" the next. It must always be "yes."
We have this Gospel reading where Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and we are the light of the world. God has placed us into the world in such a way that we are different. We have to give flavor to the world, we have to give light to the world. "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden," He said. People do not start a fire or light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. The Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, that is the fire of God burning within us. God does not have the Holy Spirit in us so we can be hidden under the bed someplace where nobody can see; rather, if He has placed us out in the world, we have to shine brightly. We have to make a difference in the world. People need to be able to see God in us.
It is not that we are out trying to gain attention for ourselves, rather the way that we live is going to be a little different. It is going to raise the world up and call the world to a new kind of standard. Not because they look at us and think that we are so wonderful, but because they look at us and see the Lord working in us. If they see that we can be raised by God to that standard, then they too can be raised to that same standard.
So, for us, it is not a question of saying, "Well, do I want to do God's Will in this circumstance? What if people think that I am not so great anymore? What if they think I am a little strange because I am doing things a little differently?"; then, we are saying "no" to God. Every time we sin, we say "no." We come before Him in prayer and say, "I will do whatever You want," and we walk out of prayer and go and do what we want instead. We are alternately "yes" and "no." We are saying "yes" to God with our lips, but in our hearts and actions we are, oftentimes, saying "no." That is what Saint Paul is getting at, it is what Jesus is saying. The lamp does not turn on and off, you light the fire and it stays lit. The salt does not lose its flavor, it remains salty. So too, for us. As Christian people with the Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts, we cannot be flickering on and off. The flame of love and the fire of faith have been placed into our hearts and it must always be "yes." When we look at our commitment to God, it is not just a generic sort of thing that we can say, "Yes, I generally want to do Your Will"; but rather, in the particulars, in the specifics of our day to day life, we want to be always "yes," as Jesus was, as Saint Paul was. As God is for each one of us, we want to be with him, not alternately "yes" and "no", but always "yes."
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.