Monday August 20, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Judges 2:11-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 19:16-22)
On Friday, we talked about how the people had been disobedient to God. He told them that they had to exterminate all the peoples in the land of Canaan, and they did not. Instead, what they did was exterminate some of them, but then they made a pact with others. They entered into agreements with them about how they would be able to live in this same area and they would even protect the people that God had told them to exterminate.
Now, on the natural level, that does not look like such a bad deal - until we look at it spiritually. We see, exactly as it tells us in the Psalms and as we saw in the first reading today, that the people began to do exactly what God told them they were going to do if they did not exterminate the peoples. That is, they started worshiping false gods, they started getting into bad practices, they started doing sinful things, and their hearts wandered from the Lord.
We need to see this for ourselves. In our country it has gotten to the point of whether or not we are going to do what the people around us are doing. But look at it spiritually. When you look inside, the Lord will show you certain areas of attachment, certain areas of sin, certain areas that stand between you and Him. What we like to do is hedge our bets. We recognize when it is out of control and we try to get it "kind of" under control. But we like it and we do not want to get rid of it. We like to be mediocre in the spiritual life. We like to make a deal with the sin and say, "As long as it is not too bad, then it is okay if it stays."
Well, it is not. The Lord is saying: "Exterminate them! Get rid of the sin entirely! Don't try to make a deal with it, don't play footsie with these things, get rid of them." But it is hard to get rid of them entirely. It is a lot easier to make a deal and say, "Look, as long as it is not a mortal sin it is okay. Just do not rise up and do something completely outlandish and I will let you stay. In fact, it is kind of nice to be able to have a little bit of this enjoyment every once in a while, as long as it does not get too bad. So, that is alright, we will make a deal." But we all know well enough that when we try to make the deal, every once in a while it rises up and we fall flat on our face. It is there - between us and God. The Lord is saying, "Get rid of it!" And we are saying, "But I like it! I made a deal with it and I really do not want it completely gone." So the Lord says, "Then you cannot grow spiritually."
That is the quandary most people find themselves in. They never grow beyond a certain level of the spiritual life because they refuse to get rid of the things that stand in the way, like the young man who came to the Lord and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. The Lord said, "Follow the commandments." Well, most of us are probably following the commandments pretty well. Then He said, "If you want perfection, get rid of everything. Then come, and follow Me."
That is what it is about. Do we want to just be able to eke it into Heaven? Do we want to live mediocrity, but be in the state of grace? Or do we want perfection? Do we want to love the Lord with our whole heart and soul and strength? Do we want to grow in the spiritual life? Do we truly want to do His Will in all things? Then we need to get rid of whatever stands between us and the Lord. We need to quit making deals with the devil; we need to quit negotiating with sin and we need to be ruthless. We need to do exactly what the Lord told the ancient people of Israel to do and we need to apply it to ourselves. We need to exterminate them entirely from our lives; eradicate sin - completely. Then there will be nothing that stands between us and the Lord, and we will indeed be able to achieve that perfection and truly follow the Lord.
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.