Thursday March 6, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) Gospel (St. Luke 9:22-25)
Moses, in the Book of Deuteronomy, as we heard in the first reading today, tells us that he places before the people life and death. He places before them doom and prosperity, and he urges them to choose life. But it is not choosing life simply in the sense of saying, “Well, we want to take care of ourselves, we want to make sure we eat, we want to make sure we have enough money to live and do all these things.” That is not what he is talking about. He says, “If you follow the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I place before you today, then you will live.” And so it is about obedience to God.
Now when we put that into a Christian context, we also see that there is something even greater, that is, it is death that brings life and it is dying to the self that allows us to live for God. Our society, of course, tells us that we are to look out for ourselves, we are to live for ourselves, we need to do as much as we can and get as much as we can. After all, if you have a power position, you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, you can have a great big fancy house and a really expensive car, and you can impress everybody. What good is it? The person who does that can be a multibillionaire – and they can wind up in hell for all eternity if they do not do what God wants them to do. It is not the job and the money that are going to send them to hell, but rather it is what is in their heart, what they are doing with the position they have, or with the money they have, or whatever it might be.
And so the question that each one of us needs to ask in the most serious manner that we can is “Am I doing God’s Will?” What happens for most of us is that we get into the routine of our lives and we do not see any other possible way; we have to do it this way for whatever reason we think that we need to. And we really need to ask the question, “Is this what God wants me to be doing right now? Is this His Will?” We can say, “But I can’t ask that question; look at what I have to do! I have all these obligations!” Are all those obligations God’s Will for you? On one level, obviously, if you have a family, you have to support your family; you need to be working and you need to do what you are supposed to do. But where are the priorities? Is the priority the family? Or is the priority the work? Is the work that you are involved in what God wants you to be doing? Those are the kinds of questions we need to look at.
It is a matter, as the Lord says, of taking up our cross and following Him, to die to our self; otherwise, as He says, what good does it do for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? The only thing that matters is getting to Heaven; that is all. It does not matter, as I mentioned, if one has fifty billion dollars and fails to go to Heaven. What good does it do? All that matters is getting to Heaven and doing what is required to get there. If you are a spouse and a parent, you have an obligation to get your spouse and your children to Heaven as well. It is not about just the self and being selfish in this matter, but rather, it is about living the vocation to which God has called you. So each of us needs to look seriously at our vocation and how we are living that vocation. Are we doing God’s Will or are we doing our own? If we are doing our own will, chances are we are going the wrong direction. If we are doing what our society tells us, we can be almost guaranteed we are going the wrong direction.
There is only one direction and there is only one way to get where we want to go – and that is Jesus, Who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. If we want the fullness of life, we need to walk the way of truth, and that is Jesus Christ. What good does it do to gain the whole world and lose one’s life in the process? Moses put before us life and death, and he pleads with the people to choose life. Jesus shows us the way to life: to die to self, to take up our cross, and to follow Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.