Wednesday October 17, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 2:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 11:42-46 )
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear that if we are only going to practice certain things, but not the whole of the [Christian] life, we are not going to be in good shape on the Day of Judgment. He says to the Pharisees - who like to follow their religious practices very strictly without practicing much love for God (In other words, they went through the motions, they did all the external things but there was no love in their heart: they did not practice charity toward others, they just simply wanted to look good) - "Woe to you Pharisees!"
Would He say anything different to us if He sees us doing similar things? That is, we go through the motions of the Christian life but we do not really want to live it. We want to look good in other people's eyes, therefore, we present ourselves with a nice façade. But the question is - Are we really good at the depths of our being? Are we doing good for others? Not just to be seen; not so that we look good; but really that we are doing good. It does not matter whether or not we are seen; but rather, what matters is that we are loving God and loving our neighbor - the two greatest commandments in the whole law, as Our Lord tells us.
Saint Paul says the exact same thing. First, he tells us to be careful not to judge, which is one of the favorite hobbies of every human being. We like to judge others. We like to look to look at them. Of course, our big thing is to size them up against ourselves and always find ourselves to be better. Then we think that we are in great shape because we are better than all these other people. This is not a good thing because he makes clear what is going to happen if that is the case: He says, "Do you think you are going to escape God's judgment if you do these things? If you judge others, imagine what the judgment is going to be for you." Once again, we need to learn charity toward others, not to judge them. If we see somebody doing something wrong, pray for them. Or if it is somebody you know well enough, point it out to them out of charity so they will be able to grow.
Then, Saint Paul goes on to talk about where the differences are. He says that there will be eternal life for those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing what is right. So, again, it is not just going through the motions, but actually doing what is right and doing it patiently. Not just doing one or two nice things for somebody and saying, "Good, now I am in. No problem for me." He says, "No. You have to patiently do what is right." It is a continual thing; it is a lifelong process.
Then he says that there will be wrath and fury for those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. Now we would like to say that is not us. But how many times have we heard the words of the Gospel and yet we disobey? Regularly, we disobey. We like to say, "Oh, we do not really need to do all of those things, do we?" Yes, we do. And for those who selfishly disobey there will be wrath and fury. So we cannot just sit back on our laurels and say, "Well, I am a good person so I am in the former group. I am going straight to Heaven because I have been nice and I have done good things and so on." It does not work that way.
I was talking to somebody just yesterday who was saying to me that there was a customer who would come in frequently. A very gracious individual: very kind, very polished, well spoken and dressed nicely, presented himself well, and all these things. He would regularly be buying all these products from this individual. Finally, the man (the storeowner) said, "I know you are in business for yourself; what is it that you do?" He says, "Oh, I make pornography." He (the storeowner) said, "I was shocked because my idea of somebody who would be making pornographic movies would be somebody who is filthy and despicable on the outside, but this man presented himself as 'Mr. Wonderful'." Everyone thought he was great until, all of a sudden, he found out what the man was really doing.
We need to be very careful not to put up a façade to make people think that we are doing well, and especially not to try to convince our own selves that that is the case. But rather, we need to look at the reality of who we are. Look at Jesus, and then look at ourselves. That is the comparison and the judgment that needs to be made. Not looking at everyone else and judging them against ourselves. But rather, looking at Jesus and judging ourselves against Him. Then we can look back at these particular points. Then we can say that there will indeed be glory and honor and peace for everyone who has done good. If we are trying to shape ourselves into the very being of Jesus Christ, into the Person of Christ, to live the life of Christ in our lives, then we have that point: glory and honor and peace.
If we do not want to be like Jesus Christ but we just want to impress others, then we are going to have the condemnation that Saint Paul talks about. It needs to be real, not a façade. If that is what we are doing is putting up a façade, pray to God to tear it down so that you can put up a real building that is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone. That is what the Christian life must be about. Not just making ourselves look good, but truly being good so that on the Day of Judgment, when we stand before the just Judge, we will be judged by what it is that we have done. And we will be found worthy, then, if we have done what is right and good, to enter into the glory and the honor and the peace of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.