Friday July 2, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Amos 8:4-6, 9-12) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
This reading that we heard from the Book of the Prophet Amos could certainly be simply picked up and transplanted into America. We see, again, the timelessness of Scripture; it fits perfectly, except we are even worse. They at least would say, “When will the new moon be over that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath that we may display our wheat?” Well, the Sabbath does not mean a thing to Americans anymore. Almost every store is open on Sunday and everybody works and all the things that go on. We have completely disregarded the Lord’s Day because all that matters is money. It says very clearly in Scripture: You cannot serve both God and mammon. So we have made our choice: Mammon has become the god that we have chosen to serve. The money is the thing that is more important than anything to the vast majority of Americans.
And so the Lord tells us point-blank what is going to happen. He says, I am going to bring about sunset at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight. He is going to chastise when that happens. This is exactly what Our Lady told us at La Salette when she appeared. It was precisely because the people were working on Sunday and they were defiling the Lord’s Day that she came to warn them that there would be a chastisement if they continued to do this. Then the Lord goes on and He tells us that there is going to be a famine in the land, not a famine of bread and water, but a famine for hearing the Word of God. Once again, it is for the same purpose. If God and His day and His commandments mean very little or nothing to most people, then they are not going to be able to hear the Word of God, number one, because they do not want to (and because they do not want to they are not going to be willing to hear it), and then, number two, because it is not going to be politically correct to hear the Word of God or to preach the Word of God.
All we need to do is look around at what is going on in the world right now. Just go a number of miles north into Canada; it is now against the law to even preach against homosexuality. It is considered a hate crime and any priest who preaches against it goes to jail. Therefore, you cannot read what it says in Sacred Scripture and you cannot state what it says in Sacred Scripture without going to jail because a protected class of people is more important than the Word of God. They are trying to pass the same law in America right now, and so some of us will be in jail. Praise God! But this is the reality. People do not want the Word of God; therefore, it is not going to be preached.
I would challenge you to go to the vast majority of places and ask yourself how much of the Word of God you hear preached. You can hear about vacations and baseball-card collections and movies and TV shows and all kinds of fun things, but you do not hear the Word of God. I always find it interesting to drive by these Protestant churches that tell you on the marquee what the topic of the sermon is going to be this week. I just smile and think to myself, “What does that have to do with anything?” But it is fun; it is “with it”. It is what people want to hear and it is about money. If you entertain people they will give you money, so we have given up preaching the Word of God so that we can get more money. We have decided to water-down the Gospel because, after all, it would be a challenge to people; and if we simply tell them what they want to hear, we will get more money! That’s what it’s all about! Obviously, in money we trust; forget God because you cannot serve both. So we have made a choice. It is happening in the Church, it is happening in society.
So where are you going to go to hear the Word of God? It says that people are going to travel all over the place and they are not going to be able to find it. Is not that the reality we live in? It is pretty hard to find the Word of God because people do not want to hear it and the priests do not want to preach it because it is not politically correct, because it is not financially expedient, because people might not like you if you actually preach the Word of God. And so we water-down the Word of God in order to obtain personal gain. Imagine the Day of Judgment when we as priests have to stand before the Lord and answer to that. But also imagine the Day of Judgment for anyone else because even if the Word of God has not been preached to us – remember that the priest is not going to be standing next to you on the Day of Judgment; you are not going to be able to stand before the Lord and say, “But he said that it was okay for me to do this!” – when we know better, we are still going to be responsible. It is incumbent upon each of us to truly know the Word of God, to know what God’s Will is.
The wonderful thing is that in the midst of all our selfishness, in the midst of all our greed, in the midst of all our love for money, we hear the Gospel. Jesus comes to a tax collector who ripped people off royally, who was only interested in money and status and prestige and material things, and that is who He called to follow Him. He gathered other tax collectors around Him and had dinner with them and called them to repentance. He is doing the same even still. He calls all of us sinners around Him, He feeds us with His very self, and He calls us to repentance. The Word of God is received into us sacramentally, and He cries out in the silence of our hearts to repent. So even if the priest will not preach the Word of God, when you receive the Word of God in Holy Communion, He will preach to you in the depths of your heart. We need to listen. We need to listen and hear Him as He calls us to repentance, as He looks at each one of us and says, I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. That is us.
So we have to make the choice: Whom are we going to serve? We cannot serve both God and mammon. Society has made its choice, the Church in America has made its choice, and each one of us needs to make a choice. You cannot serve both; it is one or the other. The Lord has called us because we have made the wrong choice all too many times in our lives. We are among those sinners. We are among the ones that He wants to sit down and share His dinner with. We are the ones in whose hearts He will cry out to call us to repentance to save our souls. The choice is ours. We know the Word of God – we have it right in front of us – all we have to do is listen. We can listen to the sound of the cash register or we can listen to the sound of the voice of our Shepherd, the Word of God. You cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to make a choice.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.