Saturday August 18, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Joshua 24:14-29) Gospel (St. Matthew 19:13-15)
After the people of ancient Israel took over the Promised Land, Joshua gathered all the people to himself as he was nearing his death and said to them: "Choose today whom you will serve. Are you going to serve the gods that your fathers served across the River? Or are you going to serve the Lord? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. But you need to make the choice yourself." The people said, "Far be it from us to serve anyone other than the Lord." Joshua went on to tell them: "You may not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. Because He is a holy God, He is going to expect holiness from the people who are going to serve Him. And because He is a jealous God, if after all the things that the Lord, your God, has done for you, you turn away from him and choose to serve other gods, He will bring evil upon you."
That is the choice we have to make today. Choose whom you will serve. Will it be the gods of this world, or will it be the Lord? The gods of this society are money, materialism, sports, selfishness, and pleasure - all of the things that the world affords. These are not the way of the Lord. We look at our society, for instance, and then we look at the Lord and the Gospel reading today where the Lord said, "Let the little children come to Me." Our society kills its babies, thousands upon thousands every single day; not all by surgical abortion, but thousands upon thousands, millions upon millions every year through contraceptives (because they are abortifacients). People seem to think that is not a problem.
Then, we choose in this society to have more things rather than more children. Maybe we are pro-life, but our attitude toward children sometimes is not what it ought to be. We see children as noisy little burdens that should not be at church. We see children as nuisances that make noise and make a mess and we do not want them around. They are for somebody else to have, but "do not burden me with your kids." That is not Christian - not one iota.
Children are the most beautiful and precious gift that God can give to us and if we do not recognize that we have chosen to serve a false god. After all God has done for us, if we choose against babies, God will bring evil upon us. You can be guaranteed that this country and every other throughout the world that is killing its babies will pay for it - and will pay dearly for it. Not that God simply wants to punish us for what it is that we are doing, but because we have chosen evil instead of good, because we have chosen to serve a false god instead of the Lord, and that needs to be purified.
Consider what Joshua had just carried out - for the most part, because they really were not faithful to what God had told them to do: God told them that they must go into the land of Canaan and wipe out and destroy the peoples of that land. Now, we look at that and we try to justify our way around it and say, "God would not tell the people to do that. Why would God be so mean as to tell them to destroy the peoples of this land and take it over themselves?" Because the Canaanites killed their babies. That is what was happening in the land of Canaan: They killed babies. And God said, "Because of this they must be destroyed. If you allow this to happen and you allow them to live, you will intermarry with them and you will start doing the exact same thing as they. You will start worshiping their false gods and you will kill your babies, too." We know that, several hundred years later, the people of Israel went into exile because they killed their babies - because they did not wipe out all the peoples in the land of Canaan and they fell into the worship of false gods and they began to kill their babies.
Maybe we are not worshiping Molech, the demon to whom they offered their babies; we do not worship Baal; we do not worship the Ashteroth; we do not bow down before the golden calf. But we have lots of other things. Maybe they are not little amulets that we wear and they are not little gods that we burn incense in front of, but we certainly have our own false gods: the little greenback that we call the almighty dollar, the sports stars that are the gods of the modern age, all the materialism, all the selfishness, all the pleasure-seeking. It all leads to one thing: making sure that we are looking out for "number one." And, sadly, in our society "number one" is not God, it is the self.
Because we look after the self, we want to make sure we do not have children around to burden us, or we only have a couple because they are our little trophies; but we do not want a family, we just want our selfishness. "One or two so I can be selfish like everybody else and show them off, but I do not want them. Bring them to a daycare! Drop them off with someone else! And if I have a day off work, the last place I want to be is with my kids!" We are hearing that more and more from mothers. It is totally contrary to motherhood.
This country has chosen a false god. Ultimately, we can look at all those false gods throughout Scripture and the false gods of today - it comes down to one and his name is Satan. He masks himself under many interesting forms to make himself look good. And so, with Joshua, all we can do is look and say the exact same words: "Choose today whom you will serve." Will it be the false gods of this world? Or will it be the Lord?
Joshua said, "If you are going to serve the Lord, then get rid of all of the false gods." You cannot play "footsie" with both. Get rid of them. Clean them out of your house, clean them out of your life. If you are going to choose the Lord, choose the Lord one hundred percent. Do not hedge your bets and think that maybe it can be this way or that; it does not work. If we are going to choose to serve Jesus Christ, then we must reject everything that is not Jesus Christ and everything that is contrary to Jesus Christ. I hope that, with Joshua, each and every one of us here today can truly make the choice and say: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." "Far be it from us," the people of Israel said, "to serve any god other than the Lord, our God."
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.