Tuesday October 21, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21) Gospel (St. Luke 12:35-38)
Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, is looking at the two acts of Jesus and of Adam, and how in Adam all have sinned. Of course, we can recognize that through Original Sin; but Adam being the first man, what he did was representative for the entire race. In the ancient way of looking at things, anyone who would be offspring following after were already present at least potentially in the loins of the individual who did the act. Consequently, through the sin of Adam everyone who would be born afterward would be affected by what he did, which is precisely what occurs. All of us being conceived with Original Sin and being born in that way have all been affected by the sin of Adam. At the same time, then, he looks at us and says, “But in Christ the many are made righteous.” So too, then, what he is looking at is that those who, in essence, would be descendants of Christ (not physically in this case but spiritually) would have an abundance. And he tells us that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. This is something which gives to us great hope. Because we live in such a sinful society, we can also be confident that the grace of God is present in abundance for us, that we have the justification in Christ.
One of the struggles we deal with is looking at ourselves in such a negative way. Because of sin in our lives, because of things that we have done ourselves, plus, of course, the weakness that is present just from our birth – the darkness of the mind and the weakness of the will that make it more difficult to see things clearly and to embrace the truth fully – because of these things we tend to look beyond the grace of Christ. We tend to look beyond the justification of Our Lord and we tend simply to look at ourselves prior to justification. That is, we see how sinful we are and we see that we are broken and weak, and we tend to think that there is no hope. We tend to look at how bad we are or whatever it may be.
But we need to make sure we are looking at who we truly are now. That is, as members of Jesus Christ, we have the grace of redemption, our sins are forgiven, and we remember that when our sins are forgiven they exist no longer. They are not on our souls anymore; the effects of the sin certainly remain, but the sin itself is gone. And so we need to remember to define ourselves according to who we are, not according to who we were, and according to who we are in Jesus Christ, where Saint Paul tells us that the grace of God is present in abundance, that justification now reigns through grace in Jesus Christ, and that justification in Christ reigns within each one of us. So it is for us to know that whatever we have done the grace of God is going to be present more abundantly than sin has been present, and God’s mercy is present in our lives in an overflowing manner so that we can accept His love and we can live in His love, and that in this society which is so filled with sin that the grace of God can be present in abundance, overflowing in abundance, because sin itself is so abundant.
That is the hope we have to bring into the world, but before we can bring it into the world, we have to accept it for ourselves. What good is it to be able to say something so beautiful if we do not believe it? Remember what Saint Paul has been talking about in the readings over the last few days, about our justification, about the fact that we have been made righteous in Christ. So too, now, we have to accept that gift of God and we have to bring that gift into the world. We have to change our lives and our own dispositions about ourselves in accordance with the gift of God given to us in Jesus Christ, because what has been and remains in a world today with all the sin through Adam and through our own sins has now been overcome in an abundant manner through the grace given to us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, rather than defining ourselves as we are as children of Adam, we need to define ourselves as who we truly are: citizens of heaven, members of Jesus Christ, and heirs of eternal life made righteous through the grace of God given to us in Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.