Wednesday February 27, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Jeremiah 18:18-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 20:17-28)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells His disciples that if you want to aspire toward importance then you must serve the needs of others, not to be served by them, but to serve them - to give of yourself for the sake of others. This is not what the world would hold up as a position of importance. But it is what God looks at as importance.
When we consider the saints, they are the true heroes of this world. They are the ones who have walked the path, and they are the ones who shine like stars in the midst of the darkness of this world. They did not seek to serve themselves. The great ones of this world, while they may have indeed been served by others, most often one would really have to wonder about where they are spending their eternity because it was pure selfishness, it was about power, it was about being served and self-seeking. But those who sought to serve others, there is usually no question at all about where they will be spending eternity.
And so, when we consider what it is that we are aspiring to, we really need to look beyond this world and ask a simple question: "Do we want to go to Heaven or do we not?" If the answer is that, indeed, we want to go to Heaven - which I hope and pray is the answer all of us would give - then we need to make sure that we are not seeking the self, but rather that we are seeking to serve the Lord and that we are seeking to serve the needs of the people around us.
Now if this is going to happen, the way is also laid out. Our Lord asked His disciples, "Can you drink of the same cup from which I am to drink?" Not exactly understanding what that meant, they eagerly said, "Indeed, we can!" thinking this was going to land them one at His right hand and the other at His left in the Kingdom. But, of course, they did drink of the same cup: each of them was persecuted; each of them was martyred. When we consider what was going to be required of them, we see the same pattern. Jesus prays for those people who have killed Him. We hear Jeremiah in the first reading, as they want to put him to death (thinking wrongly, once again, of what it was going to mean), praying to the Lord and reminding the Lord that he had already stood before the Lord on behalf of the people and interceded for them. So here are the people who want to kill him, and Jeremiah is praying for them. The Lord did the same; the apostles did the same; all of the saints did the same, and the martyrs. We need to see that this is the same pattern - which is only following what Our Lord told us to do, which is to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.
If we are going to look at true greatness, true greatness has to do with virtue; true greatness has to do with losing the self in order to live for others - particularly, of course, to live for God. And so, if we are going to aspire to true greatness (not to what the history books will tell us is greatness, but to actual and true greatness) it means to die to self and to serve the needs of others and to drink from the same cup from which Our Lord drank.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.