Thursday July 1, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Amos 7:10-17) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:1-8)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord, looking at this man who is paralyzed, says to him, Your sins are forgiven. Now this does not necessarily strike us as being so extraordinary because we are accustomed to having our sins forgiven, but the point I think we need to see is that it is in having his sins forgiven that his paralysis is healed. So it shows us something of what occurs. When we sin, we paralyze ourselves. We do not necessarily paralyze ourselves physically; but, from a spiritual point of view, when we sin there is an effect that takes place within us and in that area of sin we become paralyzed in a particular way. Father Hardon used to say, “It is impossible for anyone in the state of mortal sin to think clearly.” Ponder that one. I have been thinking about that for years, and I have come to understand what he means. In the area in which we sin, we are blinded, we are paralyzed so that we cannot act properly and we cannot see clearly.
The real tragedy is that when we give ourselves over to sin we do not want anyone to tell us that it is wrong. We try to justify ourselves and rationalize why it is okay, and of course if we are giving into one area of sin it begins to branch out and affect other areas of our lives. Now to say that we cannot think clearly does not mean we cannot do anything, but it means in that area where we have chosen sin that we are no longer able to see things clearly. And if we cannot see clearly in one area, it is going to affect others. Then we look at something like what occurs in the first reading. The prophet Amos preaches the Word of God because they were not following His ordinances, even at the temple that was dedicated to God at Bethel – a word that means “the house of God”. So what did they do? Instead of looking at what Amos said and saying, “You’re right. What we are doing is against the Will of God; it is against the law of God. We need to change our lives,” they say, “Off with you, visionary! We don’t want to hear what you have to say. We don’t want the truth; we want to keep doing what we’re doing. You are a censure to our thoughts! You are a thorn in our conscience! Therefore, instead of us changing, we’re going to get rid of you!”
Things have not changed. None of us like to hear about when we are doing something wrong. We like all the accolades. We like to be patted on the back and we like to be told that we are wonderful and we are doing a great job: “Isn’t everything wonderful?” But when it comes to things that are not so wonderful like “Look at what you’re doing here; you’re sinning over here. Shouldn’t you be doing this differently?” well, we do not like to hear it. We get angry and we get defensive. We begin to rationalize and justify. The Lord will look at us and say, Why do you harbor such evil thoughts? We have to understand that it is in being forgiven of our sins that we are going to find immense healing. But before we can be forgiven, we have to recognize that what we are doing is sinful and we have to repent. To repent implies changing one’s life. It does not mean just the simple mental acknowledgment: “Yeah, this is a sin. I should go to Confession.” It means changing. It is a lot easier to kill God’s messenger than it is to change our lives, and that is what has been done over history.
So what we have to be able to do is to make sure we are truly seeking the Will of God in our lives and that we ask Him – brace yourself when you do this – to show us our sins. Ask Him to show you your sins. Ask Him to show you where it is that you are doing anything that is offensive to Him. He will open the floodgates and you will get kind of bowled over when it happens. Suddenly, the life that you thought was so perfect and so wonderful and must be so completely pleasing to God…well, when we see the truth of who we really are, it is pretty humbling. But then we can start to change, or else we reject it; it is one or the other. Once that happens, we cannot say, “Oh, well. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.” We either have to try to reject it entirely and justify ourselves or we have to change. If we are serious about trying to do God’s Will, we need to be willing to change.
That is what we have to pray for. And we have to pray for those who are our leaders, whether that is in the Church or in society, because it was the priest at Bethel and it was the king of Israel who conspired together to put Amos to death, who wanted to get rid of him because his words were a censure to them and so they did not want to listen. We need to pray too for those in charge in whatever way so that they will have their hearts open to the truth, not only to the objective truth of God’s Will and His Word, but to the subjective truth about who they are and the gravity of their sins. As we have to pray for ourselves, we can pray for them that in that openness to the truth they will be willing to make a change – a change of mind, a change of heart, a change regarding the way that they live their very lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.