Tuesday March 4, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 35:1-12) Gospel (St. Mark 10:28-31)
In the readings today, we hear about offerings to the Lord – giving of ourselves, giving of what we have. Sirach tells us that we are not to come before the Lord empty-handed; but rather, he says that we are to give to the Lord as He has given to us, that is, generously, according to our means. We need to be of generous heart as we come before the Lord. He tells us also that we need to be very careful that we do not try to bribe God and that we do not try to trust in any kind of extortion, but rather that our offering to God must be done out of love, that is, it must be done out of love for God. It has to be a pure offering of a pure heart. When we think about Our Lord’s offering in the Eucharist, that is the perfect sacrifice; it is a perfect sacrifice of love, a perfect sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God, a perfect sacrifice offered to God for God and for others. That is the way our sacrifice is supposed to be. It is supposed to be offered to the Lord for His sake and for the sake of others, if we are offering our sacrifice (whatever it may be) for other people.
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us we are going to be repaid a hundred times in this life for whatever it is that we offer to God. We know that the Lord is never going to be outdone in generosity, but we must be very careful that we do not look at it and say, “Well, if I give this to the Lord, He will give me back a hundredfold; therefore, I’ll be better off in the end. So I’ll do it that way!” That is pure selfishness. It is to say, “If I give a hundred dollars to the Lord, I’ll get a thousand back. Well, that’s a pretty good deal. If I keep doing that it won’t be long before I’m rich!” God is not going to give you anything back if that is the attitude because you are not offering a sacrifice to the Lord, but rather what you are doing is trying to find a way of getting something for yourself. There is no sacrifice in that.
The word sacrifice comes from two Latin words that mean, “to make holy”. It is to take something that is on the natural level, something that is dear to us, and offer it to God; we make it holy. If we are trying to be selfish, bribe God, extort Him, or anything else, that is anything but holy and therefore it fails to be much of a sacrifice. God condemned the people of old because they offered sacrifices that were blemished. They took the blind sheep or the lame one or a lamb in which something was wrong and that is what they offered to God. He condemned it because God made very clear that what they were offering in sacrifice must be without blemish or if they were offering the fruits of the field it had to be the first fruits, not something later on, not something that might be blemished in any way, but the very first and the best of what we have to offer is what we are to give to God.
We all have an opportunity as we begin Lent tomorrow to think about what it is that we are going to offer to God and in what kind of spirit we are making an offering. For instance, to decide that we are going to fast so that we lose weight – that is not a sacrifice to God – that is going on a diet for ourselves. Now, it may be that if we fast we will lose weight, but that cannot be the reason for which we are doing it. And so we need to look at what we are thinking about for Lent and offer a true sacrifice to the Lord.
The Holy Father has also asked us in our charity and generosity to pray and fast tomorrow, but for a reason. Tomorrow is a day of fasting and abstinence anyway, but he is asking us to pray for peace, to offer up the suffering that comes with feeling hungry – the hunger pains and the headache that can come with it – to offer all of that up to the Lord for peace, especially peace in the Middle East, for a peaceful solution to the difficulty that is there. And he has called upon all Catholics throughout the world to do this very thing. So in obedience to our Holy Father’s expressed desire and out of obedience to what we see in the Scriptures today, we have a real opportunity then to make a true sacrifice of ourselves, offering something to God, offering it for the good of others. We can offer something that will not necessarily be an easy thing for us, and we can take that which is difficult for us and we can make it holy. We can make it a true sacrifice done in charity, out of generosity of love for God and neighbor, and in that way offer to God a pure sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.