May 21, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time
Reading I (James 4:1-10) Gospel (St. Mark 9:30-37)
St. James asks the question, “Where do the wars and the conflicts among you come from?” Then he answers it, he says, “it is from your passions that make war within your members.” We see in the Gospel reading then, precisely the point. We have the twelve Apostles arguing along the way about who is the greatest. It is all about the self, it is all about trying to get whatever it is that we want. It is not about trying to be more humble. It is not about trying to love more perfectly. Rather it is about power, it is about position, it is about wealth, or materialism, or whatever it is that we are asking for ourselves. It is not so much so that we can love God more, but rather so that we can be seen, or noticed, or whatever it is that we have at work within our members. That is the part that we need to work against, because St. James goes on to tell us that if we are going to be a lover of the world, we are going to become an enemy of God. Now he does not just say, if you are a lover of the world, or you love the things of the world that it is difficult to serve God. He said you become an enemy of God. Think about those words, because for many of us, our daily lives are filled with trying to look out for the self. In this country, they sing songs about looking out for number one. Number one, unfortunately even for most Catholic people, is not God, it is themselves. If we were truly looking out for number one, that is God, we would not have the problems that we have. Instead we get caught up in looking out for ourselves, putting ourselves in the first position, and seeking the self. God is not the top priority in our lives, we are. Therefore we are truly at enmity with God, because we have made our priorities wrong.
If God is not the top priority, almost invariably the self will be. When the self becomes the top priority, then we are going to be in conflict: in conflict with God, in conflict with one another, even at conflict within ourselves; because we know that God is to be the top priority in our lives. That is the greatest commandment, to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength. That is not an easy thing for any of us, so Our Lord tells us that we have to become like little children. St. James tells us that we need to be humble. We need to serve others. We need to put ourselves last. We need to recognize how small we are. That is not what our society tells us. Our society tells us to see how big we are, how great and wonderful, how the world revolves around us, how much power we have, or whatever it is. That is exactly the opposite of what Jesus tells us.
St. James reminds us that Scripture tells us that God resists the proud, but He gives His grace to the humble. If we are going to set ourselves up and basically let the whole world and God know that we can do it ourselves, God will resist us because we are telling Him we do not need Him. With our mouths we say we do, but with our lives we tell Him we do not. I can do this all by myself, I do not need You, and when I do, then I will come and pray and let You know that I need You. That is not what the Lord wants. He wants us to be humble. He wants us to be childlike. He wants us to know that we are absolutely dependent upon Him for everything. Not just to know it in our heads, because we would all acknowledge it, it is to live it in our lives, to make ourselves little, to make ourselves dependent. That is the way a child is, and that is the way we need to be, in the arms of our beautiful Blessed Mother and totally dependent upon God for everything. That is the way He wants it to be, and that is what we have to strive for in our daily lives, not just to have the knowledge in our head, but to live it out day by day and minute by minute.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.