Friday June15, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 4:7-15) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:27-32)
Saint Paul, at the beginning of the reading we heard today from his second letter to the Corinthians, tells us that this treasure we possess we have in earthen vessels. The treasure is what he was talking about yesterday. He talked about the holiness which is ours and the glory of God, which has been poured forth into us. "Such glory," he says, "that we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, into the very holiness of God." Now, that is something we really need to consider. We are being transformed into the very holiness of God and we carry that in our bodies. That is the point he is making: It is evident to anyone who looks that this is from God, it is not from us. We are being transformed into the glory of God, not into any kind of human glory.
That is why Jesus, in the Gospel reading today, will say, "If your eye is your problem, pluck it out and cast it away; if your hand is your problem, cut it off and cast it away." It is not your eye or your hand that causes you to sin, that might be the instrument you use to sin but that does not cause it; so, whatever the cause is, get rid of it. It is not worth losing Heaven so you can have some kind of earthly pleasure. Even if it is a legitimate thing, if it is a problem for you, get rid of it, no matter what it is. You can put it in that context and say, "Do I want to hang on to this thing that keeps me away from Jesus, or do I want to be transformed into greater glory? Do I want to become more holy, more God-like? Do I want to be the very holiness of God? Do I want to have the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus living and dwelling within my heart? Or do I want this pleasure that keeps me from Him?" When we put it that way, it is pretty evident.
The difficulty is that the devil is very shrewd. As soon as we walk out of here, he is going to say, "Yeah, but think how much pleasure you get from this! This is really a good thing. You really enjoy this. You don't want to get rid of this! Think how much this is doing for you." If it is leading you to hell, think of how much it is doing for you: Nothing. You get a couple of minutes of selfish pleasure out of something and that is what the devil tells us is so good and so important that we cannot get rid of it.
Then we have people who practice false compassion today. This is even in the Church. They will tell you that this is a difficult thing that you have, so you do not have to give it up. "This is so hard for you, it is such an addiction for you, and it is such a problem for you that it is okay. You do not have to give it up, God loves you anyway." Yes, God loves you. That was not the question. The question is whether we love God, whether we love Him enough to get rid of anything that stands in the way.
That is what Jesus is telling us. If there is anything that stands between us and God, get rid of it. Do you want to hang on to some selfish pleasure and go to hell for eternity, or is it better to give it up and go to Heaven? That choice is ours. But when we see that we are being transformed, that what God wants for us is holiness to such a degree that it becomes the very holiness of God, then we can understand the importance of this.
The other aspect of this is to recognize that if we are being transformed into the holiness of God, it is not us. In other words, to say, "Just give it up," is not necessarily that easy. We all know that. We have tried over and over again. We know when something is not right, we know we need to get rid of it and we are weak. That is why he says that we carry it in earthen vessels. It can be destroyed, it can be crushed so easily. Only with the help of God are we going to be able to get rid of these things. If we are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next, into the very holiness of God, so that it is clear that it does not come from us but from God, then we cannot think that by our own doing, by our own strength, by our own ability, by our own choice that we got rid of all the sin in our life. It is not going to happen on our own, but we have to cooperate.
We need to pray. And we need to pray with all our hearts. We need to go to God and beg Him for the grace to be able to overcome these sins, to break these attachments, to get rid of it so we will have the freedom to grow into the glory of God, into the very holiness of God. Then it will be clear to anyone who know us, who knows our weakness so well because they have known us for many years, that this surpassing glory does not come from us. They know it cannot. It is the glory of God and it can come only from Him.
Note: Father Altier does not write 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.