Thursday October 25, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 6:19-23) Gospel (St. Luke 12:49-53)
The words that we just heard in the Gospel reading are rather startling to most of us. That is, when Jesus says, "You may think I have come to bring peace, but I assure you the opposite is true. I have come, not to bring peace, but division." Then He goes on to talk about how the household will be divided. But immediately before that, He tells us He has come to light a fire, and that is where the division lies: those who are on fire for Christ, and those who are not.
We see that exact same division, in essence, in the first reading. Saint Paul talks about those who are giving in to licentiousness, to the flesh. He says that there are those [who give in to licentiousness] and then there are those who are living for righteousness, for justice, they are seeking the way of God; that is the dichotomy. For those who are giving in to licentiousness, he says, "What good do they have? They have freedom from righteousness and it leads to death…the wages of sin is death." But if we are going to seek righteousness, if we are going to seek the justice of God, that is, to be in the state of grace, to be holy, to be living a life that is in union with the Will of God, he tells us that the benefit we have is sanctification and eternal life - so that we are truly holy. We are made holy. That is what sanctification means: We are made holy. And it tends toward eternal life.
He tells us then (and what a wonderful thing to be able to hear), "If you have used your bodies for their degradation, for licentiousness, for any kind of selfishness, for sin, now use them for sanctification." What a wonderful thing to be able to see that when God forgives sin it is indeed a new beginning. Many people like to wallow in the past: They look at what their sins are and they kick themselves around and call themselves names and think somehow that God cannot forgive them or maybe He has forgiven them but look at how bad they are and all these awful things that they did. And then they play right into the devil, anyway. If God has forgiven you, you have been made holy. You are in the state of grace and God is now asking you to put the past behind and to look forward, to live a life of holiness, to live according to that righteousness of God, to use your bodies, your minds, and whatever else it was that you have used to sin for the glory of God. You can use them in a holy way. It is a new creation. You are a new creation - not only in Baptism, but in the forgiveness of sin when you have been to Confession: Every time you walk out you are a changed person; you have been made new in Jesus Christ and you have been made holy in Christ.
That holiness, Saint Paul tells us, leads to eternal life. That holiness is the fire that Jesus came to ignite and that is what is going to separate us: those who have that fire of love within their hearts and those who do not, those who are in the state of grace and those who are not, those who want to follow Jesus Christ and seek the Will of God and those who do not. That is the division.
For those who seek Christ there will be peace. For those in union with Christ there will be peace. But for those who are apart from Him there is no peace. And so, for those with the fire of Jesus Christ burning in their heart, for those in the state of grace with the love of God within them, there is, indeed, great peace. But for those who are away from Christ there can be no peace because peace will only be found in Him. On one level, indeed He has come to bring division, but for those united in Him there is great peace. "Seek the righteousness of Christ with your whole heart." That is the message of Saint Paul and that is the message of Christ. Let the fire burn within you - the fire of God's love - and let that love, which is holiness in our lives, bring us to its reward: the benefit Saint Paul tells us of, that is, eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.