Thursday September 27, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Haggai 1:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 9:7-9)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Herod wanting to see Jesus. But it was out of curiosity; it was because he had heard of all the things that Jesus did - it was not because he wanted to put faith in Him. But we know who Jesus is and it cannot be a matter of curiosity for us to want to be able to see Him. First of all, we know that He is in the Blessed Sacrament, and we know that if we are in the state of grace the Most Holy Trinity dwells within each one of us. But we also know that we are called to behold Him face-to-face, to be able to be with Him for eternity. And curiosity is not going to get us there. The only thing that is going to get us there is the love of God, as well as virtue and holiness and prayer.
Now, we need to look at ourselves and put that in line with the first reading that we heard. The people (as we heard yesterday) came back from exile and they came back for the sole purpose of rebuilding the temple. God had told Cyrus, the Persian king, to send the people of Judah back so they could rebuild His temple. When they came back, they saw the temple in ruins and they set about putting their own houses up. They paneled their homes and they made themselves very comfortable - everything for the self was being taken care of. They kept saying: "It is not yet time to rebuild the house of the Lord." They did not want to put the effort into serving God because they wanted to look out for themselves first.
Now, we just have to stop and ask ourselves: "What is the greatest commandment in all the law?" It is to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength. That needs to be first in our lives. It is very easy to look out for ourselves. But if we do that, we see from the first reading today exactly what happens. The Lord talks to them and says, "You have worked for a bag with holes in it. You have eaten and not been filled. You have drunk and not been exhilarated. All the things that you try to do are going to fail." So He says, "Now, it is time for you to change your ways." And what we need to change is to put God first. We need to make sure that God truly is the priority in our lives.
If we do believe what we claim - that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He is God - then we need to be trying to grow in holiness, to grow in more perfect union with Him, to grow deeper in love with Him every single day. It would be absolute foolishness on our part if we would sit back and say, "Yes, I believe Jesus is God. Yes, I want to see Him face-to-face. Yes, I want to be in Heaven for all eternity. But I do not want to do anything to get there. I want to look out for myself. I want to make sure I have enough, that my needs are taken care of, that everything is easy and comfortable for me. I will give lip service to God, but I do not want to have to work at this relationship. I do not really want to grow in holiness because I do not want to give up all of my attachments, my selfishness, all of my desires and wants, all of my self-centered practices - I do not want to give all that up! And I know that if I start taking up the prayer life, my life is going to have to change!" Most people do not want to do that. So they keep God at an arm's distance: They show up at Mass, they go through the motions, but they never let God into their heart because they do not want to change.
God said to the people, through the prophet Haggai: "It is time for you to change." We have talked about that several times over the last couple of weeks: the necessity to change some things in this country and in our lives. We need to look at that. We believe and we profess that Jesus Christ is Almighty God. Then, it is time we change to live according to that belief. Put Him first. Seek union with Him. Get rid of anything that does not lead you to Jesus Christ. Absolutely, get rid of everything that leads you away from Christ and seek to serve Him with your whole heart and soul and strength.
That is the change that needs to be made because no one is going to get into Heaven by being curious to see Him, but only through hope that builds upon faith, and love is the fulfillment of that. If we are going to profess that He is Lord, then we have hope to get to Heaven. That hope must lead us to action - and that action is love. That love is going to be borne out in the way that we live our lives. That is the change that must be made: to live the virtues of faith, hope, and charity so that we will have their fulfillment in the face-to-face vision of the eternal love of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.