November 25, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5) Gospel (St. Luke 21:1-4)
We hear in the first reading about the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and the hundred and forty-four thousand with Him, those who are unblemished. No deceit is on their lips and they are the ones from all of humanity who are chosen because of their righteousness. They have on their foreheads the name of God and the name of the Lamb, and they are the ones who have been faithful to Him completely. Now we can ask ourselves, “What exactly is that going to require? (Not that we are going to be among the small group, but nonetheless, we should certainly be striving to be counted among the greater group that is going to be in Heaven) And how is it to be done?”
I think we have a little inkling of how that is going to be done in the Gospel reading today. Having absolutely nothing to do with money, but rather, having to do with the giving of the self, we hear about how the wealthy people were putting into the treasury from their surplus wealth, whereas the little widow put in all that she had, everything that was her livelihood. What the Lord is asking of us is to look at what we are giving to Him. Do we give Him what is left over? Do we give Him our surplus of all of our talent, of all of our ability, of our own self? Or are we really digging in and giving the Lord our very selves?
Now we have to understand that in the way we are created the self is simply the most precious gift that we have and we protect it with everything that we have got. So what happens is when it comes to giving the self to God, we tend to give to God what is peripheral. Even when it is the things that kind of hurt, when we are giving to God something even deeper, I think most of us would have to admit that it is not the very essence of who we are. It is maybe a little bit deeper than the peripheral things but it is still things that are more to the outside. This little widow, if we would look at it from a human perspective, basically gave to God her whole being, everything that she had. Not just what she sized up and figured she could live without, not just the little bit on the edge that might be a little bit of an inconvenience but was not going to cause too much difficulty for her, but she gave it all. If we want to put that into very practical terms, it is everything: her heart, her soul, her mind, her body, all of her works, all of her actions, all of her thoughts - every single thing was given by her to God.
That is what He is asking of us: that we would really give our entire being to Him. Now that goes against our nature, but, at the same time (if we really think about it and pray about it), because it is giving the entire self to God, it is actually fulfilling our nature; it fulfills what we were created for. But because of sin, what has happened is that we have become so focused on the self that we do not want to give it up; and so we fight to protect it to make sure it does not get taken away. Under normal circumstances, that would be proper because if the self is violated in that way it is a total sin against the person. But in this case, it is a free choice to give oneself as an act of love and there is no violation at all because it is giving to Love in love. That is, in the love of our hearts, we are giving ourself to God, Who is Love, and He will not violate us. He will not violate the gift that we offer, but instead what He will do is when we can give ourselves entirely to Him then we can receive the gift of Him to ourselves, which is an entire gift of self to us. What a beautiful exchange is being offered! We give our piddly little self to God and He gives His glorious self to us. We can actually live in such a way that it is the Lord who lives in us and through us. But that requires our choice; God will never force that on us. He will never require it of us, but rather, what He will do is ask us as a gift of love to give ourselves to Him, and as a gift of love He will give Himself to us. That is what that poor widow did with her two little copper coins, if we want to see it in an external way.
Now God is asking us to do the same, not with our money but with ourselves. Are we willing to give Him everything – absolutely everything in our entire lives, bar none? He wants us to give it all and He is going to give it all in return. That is what is being offered to us. That is how we will be among that group of people who will be without blemish, the ones who will be united with the Lamb, with the Father’s Name and the Name of the Lamb written upon the forehead. If people would see us – if we are in that way – they are going to see God and they are going to see Jesus, which is why Their names would be written right on the forehead because that is Who is going to be operating within. That is what God is offering. So we need to really pray and look very seriously at our generosity toward God and ask ourselves, “Am I simply giving of my surplus, or am I giving to God everything that I am and everything that I have?”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.