Tuesday January 29, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 6:12b-15, 17-19) Gospel (St. Mark 3:31-35)
In the first reading, we hear about the movement of the ark of God up to its final place. We know that the ark had been captured by the Philistines, and when things did not go too well for the Philistines they sent the ark back. As they were bringing it up into Jerusalem, we recall that one of the young men reached his hand out to steady the ark because he thought it was going to fall off the cart and as soon as he touched it, he died (which is exactly what God said would happen, back in the earliest parts of the Scriptures). And so with that, David said, "I am not going to bring the ark any further." He put it in the house of Obededom and it stayed there for three months. When he saw that God had blessed the house of Obededom, he then brought it the rest of the way up to Jerusalem. Now, the house of Obededom was just outside of Jerusalem so it is not like they walked for miles killing a bull and a fatling every six steps - it was a fairly short distance.
But the important thing to see is the reverence for the Lord: there was great festivity when the Lord's ark was moved; there were sacrifices every six steps; David gave a loaf of bread, a raisin cake, and a cut of meat to every single person in Israel. The whole country was there to be able to witness this. You can just ask yourself what would happen if the Eucharist were taken away completely - no Mass was offered; the Lord was not in the tabernacle; there was no possibility for anybody to be able to have access to Jesus in that direct manner of the Eucharist. What if the Lord was not there for months? What would you do if you found out that for the first time a Mass was going to be offered? We would all be there. If there was only one Mass that was going to be offered in the Twin Cities area and no Mass had been offered for, say, a year, you would not stay at home on Sunday morning; you would be there! And you would be there with the greatest reverence. That is exactly what happened here when they moved the ark of God. And it is exactly what needs to happen every time we come before the Lord.
In every convent of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, back in the sacristy, there is a sign that is there for the priest. It is a very beautiful little plaque they have and it says simply: Priest of God, say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass. We can adjust it slightly and say: People of God, come to Mass as if it were your first time, your last time, your only time. How would you want to be before the Lord if this was the only opportunity or if you knew this was the last time - that God was going to call you home today and this was your last opportunity to be at Mass? What kind of disposition would you want? What kind of reverence would you have before the Lord? How would you want to pray?
That is the way we should be with Him always and more so, because the Lord tells us that because of who we are - we are mother and brother and sister to Him - He is not just somebody who is distant from us, but rather, we are united with Him by very intimate bonds of love. It is very easy, especially with the people in your own family, to take them for granted and sometimes to treat them in a way you would not treat anybody else; but instead, we need to go the other way: to treat them with far greater reverence and respect than anyone else. And above all, that is what we owe to Our Lord, not merely because we are mother and brother and sister, but because He is God and He has chosen us out of love for us. In response, we need to make sure that when we come into His Presence it is always with the greatest reverence, the greatest respect, and to pray to Him, to know that He is God, and to have that proper disposition - anytime and every time that we are in His Presence.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.