For the Praise of His Glory
July 13, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Amos 7:12-15) Reading II (Ephesians 1:3-14)
Gospel (St. Mark 6:7-13)
In the second reading this morning, Saint Paul tells the Ephesians three times that they are made for the praise of God’s glory. That is who we are. It is the very purpose of our existence, Saint Paul tells us, so that we will exist for the praise of His glory. I would recommend highly that you read that reading again, and maybe even several times over, because there is so much that Saint Paul has packed into that reading and it is all about our dignity. Will you just think for a bit about what it is that he said? He tells us, for instance, that before the foundation of the world – in other words, from all eternity before anything was created, before anything existed other than God Himself (God knew, of course, in His mind everything that He was going to do) – He knew that He was going to create you and He chose you from before the world existed. He chose you for the praise of His glory. Saint Paul tells us beyond that that He has also chosen us so that we would be able to stand before Him holy and without blemish in His sight.
Now how many of us can suggest that that is what we are doing? First of all, the idea that God would have chosen us from all eternity is mind-boggling enough; secondly, to think that He has chosen us for the praise of His glory is something that most of us do not understand very well. We can ask ourselves, “What is our glory?” Saint Paul talks about those people who want to give into sin and he says, “Their glory is their shame.” The very things that they should be ashamed of are the things that they glory in. Look around our society and you are going to see that everywhere. Drunkenness, immorality, impurity, selfishness of any variety, stealing, violating other people, money, materialism – these are the things that Americans oftentimes glory in rather than glorying in Jesus Christ. Where is our glory?
You see, if our priorities get mixed up, as they have for most Americans, God is not the top priority and therefore God is not our glory. But if God is not the top priority, almost invariably we become the top priority in our own life. And when we become our own top priority, there are a number of things that follow from it; but normally what happens is that when we become the priority in our lives we seek pleasure or riches or comfort because it is all about looking out for Number One. And tragically, unfortunately, as Our Lord makes clear in the Gospel that God is supposed to be Number One, we make ourselves Number One. Jesus said, “Love God with your whole heart and soul and strength; that is the first and greatest commandment.” When we put ourselves first, obviously, we are not putting God first. But we exist, Saint Paul said, for the praise of His glory.
This reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians tells us about our dignity. These are all things that we know; we have heard them for years and years but we do not believe them. We believe them in our head, but most of us would actually sit back and say, “That sounds nice. Neat theory, but where is the reality?” You have been adopted as sons and daughters of God, Saint Paul tells us, for the praise of His glory. Three times he tells us that that is why we are here: for the praise of God’s glory. He tells us that we are to be holy and without blemish and therefore we have the forgiveness of our sins. They are gone; they are completely removed when they are forgiven. But many of us do not accept that either. Some have just simply stopped going to Confession because we do not really believe in the forgiveness of sin, or we do not believe that we can overcome sin in our life. Others go to Confession but they really do not believe that their sins are gone.
Saint Paul tells us that we have been given the Holy Spirit as the first installment, that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. When we hear in the first reading about Amos going to Bethel and preaching there, Amaziah, who was the corrupt priest, throws Amos out and tells him, “This is the temple of the Lord and it is a royal sanctuary.” But today that is you; you are the temple of the Lord; you are the royal sanctuary. Saint Peter tells us that God has made us a kingdom and priests for God our Father. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. When we just think about our dignity for a few moments, it is something that we so reject and rebel against because the devil has messed us up so badly. But we need to accept it because our salvation depends upon it.
If you go back to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the first five and a half days of creation we are told that God looked at what He made and saw that it was good. There is only one day that God stopped halfway through the day to look at what He made and that is the sixth day. On the sixth day, halfway through, God makes the animals and He sees that everything He had made was good. And the second half of the sixth day God makes us, humanity, and then He looks at what He made and it says, “Behold, it was very good.” It was not just good anymore. You are not just good by nature – you are very good by nature. That is who you are. And you know what? The pagans are that way. People who do not know Jesus Christ have a nature which is made in the image and likeness of God and is very good. We do not even believe that as Christian people, and it is true of the pagans even!
Saint John tells us in his first letter that God is love. You are made in the image and likeness of God; it is right there on the first page of the Bible. And God is love, which means that you are made in the image and likeness of love. Most of us do not believe that either, but that is true even of the pagans. So think of the dignity that a human person has even before being baptized. Our nature is very good; that cannot change. That does not mean we do very good things always, but our nature, which is human made in the image and likeness of God, cannot change. If it did, we would not be human anymore. That is the Protestant problem. They believe that human nature is corrupt and therefore it is no longer what God created it to be, which means that we are no longer human in their eyes. That is something which is false. Our human nature is very good, and we are made in the image and likeness of God from the moment of conception.
Now, on top of that, look at what happens in Baptism: Original sin is removed, as are all sins if we are baptized as adults; sanctifying grace is placed into our hearts, which is the very life of God – so we become children of God, we become heirs of Heaven, we share in the very life of God Himself; the Holy Trinity comes to dwell within us so that we truly are temples of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we are made members of Jesus Christ and Jesus is a Priest, a Prophet, and a King, which means each one of us is made a priest, a prophet, and a king; we are raised to a supernatural and divine level of acting and being – you can act like God. (You do not become God. That is the New Age fallacy, that we are God. It is a bunch of nonsense. But we are members of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is God, which means that we can act in a divine manner.) We do not need to glory in our shame anymore because that violates our dignity. It is the devil who tells us that all these improper things are things that are really good for us. We need to recognize our dignity and live in accordance with it.
At this point, if you are like most people, you are starting to get very uncomfortable. You are trying to push it away because you do not really want to hear it. You like it up in your head, but down in your heart you cannot accept it. But the Church in Her wisdom has sandwiched this reading from Ephesians between two others. One, of Amos, who tells the priest of Bethel that he was not a prophet and he was not schooled in a prophetic school. In the ancient world, they used to actually have schools of prophets where they would teach them how to prophesy. Well, that is not from God. But Amos tells us that he was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. He was a lowly, lowly man. Shepherds were the lowest on the totem pole in the ancient world. And God called him to be a prophet and said to him, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” Then, in the Gospel reading, we see Jesus sending out His twelve apostles to preach the Gospel, to cast out demons, to cure the sick. The apostles were not men who were extraordinary and great men. They were fishermen, tax collectors, sinners like we are. One was a Zealot. They had a variety of different people in there. None of them were CEO’s of top corporations. None of them probably would have been part of the genius group. None of them were people that society thought were the great ones and were bowing down before. They were common, ordinary people just like us and God chose them to do extraordinary things.
And so the Church in Her wisdom, placing these readings around this reading from Ephesians, knows what our nature is all about. We are weak because of sin and so we want to push the truth away. We say, “It can’t be about me because I’m not good enough. I’m not one of the big shots. I’m not powerful. I don’t have a position. I don’t have a title. Who am I that God would choose me and give me all this dignity?” It has nothing to do with title or anything else, but rather, as Saint Paul makes very clear, before the foundation of the world God chose you. He called you by name; He chose you individually. It was not because you were doing so well and walking down the street one day in an absolutely sinless manner that God said, “Oh! Look at this one who is so holy! I’m going to choose this one for Myself!” No, from the foundation of the world God chose you. Before you were even created, God chose you simply because of who you are. Two-thirds of the world’s population does not know Jesus Christ, but God chose you. Not only to know His Son, but to be a member of His Son and to live a holy life without blemish in His sight.
So now ask yourself where your priorities are. Is it God or is it self? Even just look at your time. How much time everyday do you spend with God? And how much time do you spend on yourself? On entertainment, comfort, pleasure, ease, fun – all of the things that America tells us are important? How much time is spent in front of the TV? How much time with the radio? How much time with the Internet? How much time just on self-centered things or being lazy and wasting time? How much time, on the other hand, do we spend in prayer? How often do we go to Confession? How often are we found reading Scripture? How often do we frequent the Sacraments? You see, if our priorities are not right it is because we do not really believe who we are. We buy the devil’s lie that we are no good, that we are worthless, that we are stupid, that we are foolish. It is all a lie! Every last bit of it is a lie! It is not who God called you to be and it is not who God has made you to be. That is why we need to read that reading again and again and again, and really stop and think about what it means for us, to ask that simple question, “Who am I?” It is answered right there in that reading numerous times.
There are only two possibilities of where we are going to put our praise and where we are going to glory. It is either going to be in God or it is going to be in ourselves. It is one or the other. One will set us up for eternity in Heaven and one will set us up for eternity in hell. Hell is going to be nothing but looking at yourself for all eternity. Talk about despair! And Heaven is going to be looking at God for all eternity. So the choice is ours. It is all laid out very clearly for us, but we have to make the choice. Do we accept our dignity? Do we believe in who God has made us to be? Look at that reading again, pray about it, and make your choice. I hope and pray that it is in accordance with the Will of God, that is, to recognize your dignity, that He has called you, chosen you, and that you will accept that you exist for the praise of His glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.