Perfection is Transformation into Jesus Christ
Tuesday September 23, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20) Gospel (St. Luke 8:19-21)
Yesterday in the Gospel, we heard Our Lord telling us that those who have will be given more and those who have not will lose even the little that they have. Today we see exactly what that “more” is going to lead to. That is, if we hear the Word of God and we act upon it, we become the brothers and sisters of the Lord. On one level, we already are because of Baptism, but at the same time it is a matter of growing in that union with Christ and becoming perfect. That is what Our Lord is offering to us. To become saints, to be able to hear the Word of God and act upon it is exactly what our lives are supposed to be.
Now, for us, sometimes that has a negative connotation because we all know some people who take the Word of God, twist it around, and do odd things with it, what they call the “Bible Thumpers” and so on. They get into some strange situations. But it is a matter not so much of doing that, but in living a quiet life in union with the Will of God. And the Word of God is made very clear to us through the Scriptures and through the teaching of the Church. The Word of God is ultimately Jesus Christ, and so it is to be conformed to Jesus Christ. That is what our life is to be. We are to be so perfectly one with Christ that people will recognize it is Him, or even so far as Saint Paul would say, “It is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me.” That is what Our Lord is offering to us if we are willing to do what He wants us to do. If we are going to be given more until we become rich, the greatest richness is God Himself, and we will be transformed into God; not substantially (that is, we will not become God), but we will be so perfectly united with God that our will and the Will of God become one and the same.
It is a point I have spoken to you about many times before, that it is possible even in this life to get to the point where there is no more sin, where there is perfection. The saints have done it and they have taught us the way to do it. So it is not something that any of us can sit back and think it is impossible to do. The Lord made very clear that for God nothing is impossible. For us by ourselves, yes, it is impossible; we will never be able to get rid of sin by ourselves. But the Lord never told us we were in it all by ourselves. He is there with us. He is the One Who has ignited the fire within us. He is the One Who is providing for its growth. And He is the One, and the only One, who can conform us and transform us into Himself. None of that can be done by ourselves. And so it is a matter, again, of making sure that we are seeking Christ, the Word of God, to hear Him and to act upon the Word, and the Word is Christ.
So we need to listen to Him. If we really believed that He is God – and we do – then we have the obligation to recognize that every single word that has come out of His mouth is the Word of God. It is not an option for us to decide whether or not we want to do what God has commanded us to do. We have free will so we can choose against God. But for those of us who are trying to choose for God, He has made it pretty easy for us; it is all right there. The problem is that oftentimes we just do not pay much attention to it because we want to be able, on one level, to say that we believe in God and that we want to live our Faith, while on the other hand we want to be worldly and we do not want to live it too much because what is going to happen if we do? After all, we would have to change. And so it is a matter of saying, “If I’m really going to be serious about this, I need to look at what Christ has said and I need to put it into practice.” In that way we will grow rich, not in the things of this world, but rather we will store up for ourselves treasure in Heaven, and in this life we will become another Christ. We will become perfect to the point that it is Christ Who is living in us and we will be doing the Will of God in all things.
That is the goal for our lives. That is what God is offering for each and every one of us, to be a true brother and sister to Christ, to be one with Him in all things so that we will share in His life, in His passion, in His death, and in His glorification. That is what the Lord is offering to us if we are willing to say “yes”. Of course, when we think about sharing in His passion and death that is probably why most of us pull back. But the Lord is offering to us something far beyond. It is to be glorified with Him in this life by being raised up on the Cross, and it is to be glorified with Him for eternity. Ultimately, that is the only thing that matters because there is only one alternative, and if we are not glorified with Him that means we spend eternity in Hell. So that is what our choice really comes down to. And when seen that way, there is not much of a choice. We need to hear the Word of God and act upon it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.