Monday March 8, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Daniel 9:4b-10) Gospel (St. Luke 6:36-38)
In the Gospel reading this morning, Our Lord tells us something that I think is very important for us to take to heart. He says, The measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you. When we stop and look at the context in which He speaks these words, He tells us that we have to be merciful, we have to stop judging, we have to stop condemning, we have to forgive, and we have to give. When we look at these things, we can ask ourselves, “How generous am I being? How merciful am I being? Am I truly giving to others? Am I seeking the good of others? Or do I stand in judgment of others?” It is such an easy thing to do, and, of course, judging is going to be the last thing to go before perfection anyway because it is just simply a part of our pride and it is so deeply rooted within us. Yet at the same time, we have to work to overcome these things.
Now Our Lord tells us that we have to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful, but what we tend to do is justify ourselves. We have all kinds of reasons why it is okay for us to condemn, to judge, to fail to show mercy. Of course, when we do something wrong that is a different matter. People should be merciful to us. They should not be judging us. They should not be condemning us. But then we turn right around and do exactly the thing that we complain about other people doing to us.
On the backside of this, we can look at the first reading and we have the prophet Daniel saying, We are shamefaced even to this day because we have sinned, we have rebelled, we have done evil; we have not followed Your commandments that You have given to us. Is there one of us that can suggest that we have followed God’s commandments the way that we should? Is there anyone here who can suggest that they have not done evil? Recall the words of Our Lord with the woman caught in adultery: Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone. Yet how quick we are to jump up and stomp our feet and say, “I have every right because look at what this person did!” And we try once again to justify ourselves. Where is it going to get us? It is going to get for us an exceedingly small measure of mercy because we are refusing to be merciful. It is going to get us condemned because we are condemning. It is going to get us judged because we are judging. That is what it is going to obtain for us.
So if we think that we want to feel justified because we have some kind of right or reason, then we would have to say that God is perfectly justified treating us in the exact same way. After all, that is precisely what Jesus tells us is going to happen. And recall that it is exactly what we pray upon ourselves every time we pray the Our Father: to be forgiven only to the degree which we are willing to forgive. These are hard words, and yet Our Lord told us very clearly that as Christian people we are held to a higher standard. We are to pray for our persecutors and love our enemies. We are to forgive as He Himself – even on the Cross – was willing to forgive. We are without excuse. We are without rationalization.
We have a commandment, and all that we can say is that we are shamefaced because we have not followed it. We have not loved as we have been commanded to love; we have not forgiven; we have not been merciful; we have condemned. We have done exactly what we were commanded not to do and we have not done what we have been commanded to do. Yet how many of us refuse to come before the Lord and say, “We are shamefaced this day because we have rebelled against You.” Instead, we come before the Lord and we try to explain to Him why it is okay for us to do what we are doing because we have good reason, after all. The only thing that we have good reason to do is to be obedient to what Jesus has commanded us because He has given us the example – and not only for someone else, but rather He has applied this directly to us. He has been merciful; He has been forgiving; He has given all for each one of us individually. We have no justification. We can only look at ourselves and stand shamefaced and sorrowful before God and beg His mercy by extending it to others.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.