Monday July 12, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Isaiah 1:10-17) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:34-11:1)
We hear the words in today’s Gospel: Anyone who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and anyone who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. These words, if they were not coming from the mouth of Our Lord Himself, would sound like the most arrogant words in the world. Imagine looking at one of your friends and saying something like this: “If you love your spouse more than me, you’re not worthy of me; you’re not worthy to be my friend. If you love your kids more than you love me you’re not worthy to be my friend.” Except it is God Himself who is saying it, and what He is telling us is that we have to love God above all else, that we have to put God first because if we want to be able to love our parents, our spouses, and our children more it implies that we have to love God more. And if we are doing the Will of God, then, of course, we are going to love God and we are going to love neighbor and everything is going to be in the proper order.
It is incumbent upon us to do this, not only because it is what Our Lord has told us, but also when we look at that first reading and we hear the Lord telling the people that He is sick and tired of the very things that He Himself commanded them to do – I don’t want any more of your burnt offerings; Don’t come to My courts anymore, don’t trample My place – He is telling the people to stay away and He tells them He is not going to listen to their prayers, and even if they pray more He is not going to listen or answer anyway. The reason is because they are unjust. He tells them that before they can come and offer sacrifice, and before their sacrifice is going to be acceptable, they have to change their interior disposition. He wants them to look out for orphans and take care of the poor and do the things that are right.
So too, for our own selves, we need to look at that. We know that our sacrifice is acceptable to God because it is the sacrifice of Jesus. That is the objective sacrifice. The subjective part of that, however, is our participation in the sacrifice, and the question we have to ask is, “Is my participation in this sacrifice acceptable to the Lord? Am I doing what He has commanded me to do? Am I seeking to be just? Am I trying to be charitable? Am I loving God first and foremost above all things? Am I living my life the way God would expect me to? Or am I being a hypocrite? That is, am I living a life of dishonesty, of selfishness, of pleasure seeking, of all the things that we know are not right? Then I come to church and pray so that I look like I’m holy, but the reality is that I’m not.”
Someone was telling me a story just yesterday, hopefully it was not a true story, but there was a car that had all kinds of bumper stickers on it – “Pray the Rosary” and “Peace through Jesus” and so on – and this person who was driving the car was in a hurry. There was a car that had pulled in front of this driver at a red light, and when the light turned green it just continued to stay there. Pretty soon the driver is screaming and swearing and cussing and making interesting gestures and so on as the person looked in the mirror. Then, as the light turned yellow, the person pulled forward and allowed the driver to pull in front of them and then turned on the lights and pulled them over. They pulled the driver out of the car and frisked them. The driver said, “What are you doing?” And the person said, “This must be a stolen car. Based on what your bumper stickers say and based on what you were doing, this has to be a stolen car because a person with those kinds of bumper stickers isn’t going to be doing and saying what you were doing and saying!”
What kind of example are we giving? Are we being hypocrites in the way we live our lives? We need to think pretty seriously about that when the Lord tells the people that He does not want anymore of the very things that He commanded them to do because of their injustice, because of the fact that they are not living the faith that they were professing. They came and offered burnt offerings, they offered sacrifice, they offered incense, they came before the Lord, but the problem is that they did not live what it was they were professing and He basically told them to get out because they were not doing what they were supposed to do. It was all fake. We have to make sure we are not falling into the same pattern. In other words, we have to make sure that we not only come to Mass but that we live the Mass, that we not only take the time to pray but that we allow it to change our lives so that what we do when we are with the Lord is going to be reflected in what we do when we are out in the world, that we live the faith we profess, that we live the sacrifice we offer, that we are truly seeking first and foremost to love God and to love our neighbor. It is when we are doing that that our subjective sacrifice, our participation in the sacrifice of Christ, is going to be acceptable to Almighty God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.