Sunday August 12, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Wisdom 18:6-9) Reading II ( Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19)
Gospel (St. Luke 12:32-48)
At the end of the Gospel reading today Our Lord says, "From those to whom more has been entrusted, more will be expected." We look at that and we might all stop and think, "Well, thank goodness then. I have not been entrusted with much - at least I am not like one of these very powerful people in the world like the President of the United States, who has to make major decisions, or like the Pope, with the whole world on his shoulders. I just have this little bit with which I am entrusted."
I would challenge that idea. It may be that on that level you do not have quite the same responsibility, but what God has entrusted to you is exactly what He has entrusted to our Holy Father: the truth. God has given to you knowledge of the truth, and He expects that you will respond in accordance with that truth. He says that the one who knows his master's will and does not carry it out will be beaten severely; whereas, the one who did not know his master's will but deserves a severe beating will get off with only a light beating because he did not know the master's will.
I do not think any of us could sit back today and say, "But I do not know God's will! I do not know what He wants. I do not know what He has promised. I do not know anything about the Lord or about His truth." I think we all know better than that. God has given us His truth. He has given us His promises. He has given us His Son. Therefore, none of us can suggest that we are not responsible, or that we do not have to worry about whether we are going to be held responsible for certain things or how much is going to be expected of us. We cannot say: "God is only expecting a little, tiny bit out of me because He has not entrusted me with much." That is wrong.
To you, God has entrusted the fullness of the truth. If we look at somebody like our Holy Father or Cardinal Ratzinger, we can say that God has entrusted to them the task of protecting and guarding the truth and making sure that it is preached to all people throughout the world. And to you, He has entrusted the task of making sure that it is passed on to your children, or to your friends, or to the people around you. You must live the truth. On that level, no, it is not the same.
But the truth that He has entrusted to you and to me and to our Holy Father is the exact same truth. You do not learn more as you go higher in the Church; it is not a secret society like the Masons, where with each level they give you a little bit more knowledge. It is not a gnostic religion; the fullness of truth is right there for every single person to know. So there is an obligation on the part of each and every one of us to study the truth, to learn the truth, and to conform ourselves to that truth.
We must always remember that ignorance is not going to be much of an excuse when we stand before God. The Lord says: "If you did not know the master's will, you are not going to be held as responsible." That part is true. But to stand before the Lord and say, "I did not learn my faith because I knew that if I learned it, I was going to be responsible for it. I purposely did not learn it so that I could stand here on Judgment Day and say, 'But I did not know!'" An excuse like that will end up having a severe beating attached to it, according to the Gospel. That severe beating is going to be eternity in hell. That is not a pleasant thought. Each and every one of us knows fully well that we have an obligation to learn the truth. Ignorance is ignorance - it is not bliss, as our society tries to suggest. We have an obligation. It is not just a good idea; it is an obligation to learn the truth and then to live the truth.
We think of what this is going to require of us as we look at the first reading, for instance, where we hear that God had made known to some of His chosen people, even when they were in slavery, that the Passover was coming. It says, therefore: "In secret, they offered sacrifices that were pleasing to God." And so, even though everything around them was gravitating against living their faith and everything around them was suggesting that you should live like the Egyptians, be like the Egyptians, worship false gods like the Egyptians, and fit into Egyptian society; a handful of these chosen people, in secret, lived according to the way of God.
You are no different. To you, God has given the knowledge of the truth. He has entrusted to you the fullness of truth. He has put you into a neopagan society and He says, "I want you, in the midst of this society gone astray, to live the truth." "It is not beyond you that you do not know it," as Moses says in the Book of Deuteronomy, "It is not up in the sky so that you have to ask, 'Who will take me up there so I can learn it?' And it is not at the bottom of the sea, so you have to ask, 'Who will take me to the bottom of the sea so I can find it?' And it is not on the other side of the world so you have to wonder how you are ever going to get there to find it. It is right there. It is already in your hearts and on your minds." You know the truth, all that is left now is to live it fully.
Each one of us has an obligation to conform himself or herself to that truth. And the truth is Jesus Christ. That is the beauty of being a Christian person. We do not believe in just a series of propositions. We do not believe in this nebulous idea of truth. The truth is a Person. If you ask yourself: "How am I supposed to conform myself to this truth?" you then look at Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. And then say: "How did He live His life? Then I must do the same."
It is not beyond us. We cannot say, "Well, Jesus was God, that is why He was able to do it; but I am not, so I cannot do it." It is true that He was God, so He never sinned. We are not God and we have sinned. But God has given us His grace, which is His own life, and He dwells within us. The Most Holy Trinity dwells within each one of us so that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is not beyond us. Even though we are not God, we share in the divine nature and we have been raised above a natural level so that we can live in a supernatural way, so that we can live a divine life. It is not beyond any one of us.
We recognize also what Saint Paul talked about in his Letter to the Hebrews. He talked about Abraham, he talked about Isaac, and he talked about all those people in between: from Abraham all the way up to the first generation of Christians. They had the promises that God had made, but they did not see the fulfillment of those promises. "But they died in faith," Saint Paul said. Part of that promise was the resurrection from the dead, which is why he says that from Abraham, who himself was as good as dead, came new life. And Isaac, who was to be killed, suddenly was given back - again, a prefiguration of the Resurrection.
We have promises not merely of a bodily resurrection, but of an inheritance in Heaven. We have eternal life offered to us. We have knowledge that this is there: Jesus Himself has promised it. Therefore, we need to live it. It is not something that we can say we did not know about.
Last week, we talked about how we need to shun all the materialism and all the things of the world so that we can live for God. Jesus picks that same theme up again at the beginning of the Gospel reading today. Again, we need to look at it and say: "There are two worlds that we have to choose from: We can choose this world, or we can choose the next." We have to live in this world for the next. If we are living in this world for this world, it means we are storing up treasure in this world: We are more interested in our physical moneybag, what is in the bank account, what stuff we have. Those are the things that Jesus says a thief can reach and a moth can destroy. "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
So, where is your treasure? Is it in this life? Storing up more in this life? Making sure that everything is taken care of in this life? Because, after all, we can get a grasp on the things of this world: I can count my money, I can see my stuff, I can take an accounting of all the things I have - it is physical, it is tangible, it is right there, I can see it and feel it.
But God's promises: Heaven, eternity, resurrection - those are still intangible. I cannot see them, I cannot get a grip on them, I cannot feel them, I cannot take an accounting of them. It requires no faith to be able to see your money and your material things, but it takes great faith to believe in what God has promised. It is much easier to immerse ourselves into this world and the things of this world.
The Lord wants us, like those people of old, to live by faith: faith in the promises. For two thousand years now, Christian people have died without yet seeing the fulfillment of their hope, of the promise that Jesus is going to return, of the promise that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Of all the promises that the Lord has made, we have not yet seen the fulfillment. But for two thousand years, Christian people have walked in faith, lived in faith, acted in faith, believing that the One who made the promises is trustworthy. Therefore, they believed and they lived what they believed.
Now, the Lord is asking the same of us. In this generation, like the people of Israel who lived in a pagan society in Egypt, God is asking each one of us to live our faith, to live that faith in Jesus Christ, to believe the promises He has made, and to live the truth that He has entrusted to each one of us; knowing that because we have been entrusted with the fullness of truth, much will be expected of us. But knowing also that He who has made the promises, He who has given us that truth, is trustworthy; therefore, we believe, and we live the faith.
That is the choice that is given to us: It is this world or the next world; it is the things that are tangible or the promises that have not yet been received. As Christian people, we walk by faith and not by sight. Not what we can get a grip on, but what has been promised - because the One who has made the promises is trustworthy and, therefore, He will do it.
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.