Tuesday July 20, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Elijah
Reading (Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 12:46-50)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Micah, the question is asked, Who is there like You, the God who removes guilt and pardons the sins for the remnant of His inheritance? When we consider the idea of the mercy of God and the forgiveness of our sins, again to ponder that point of not only the importance of having our sins forgiven but just the mercy of God and what it means to have our sins forgiven – as the prophet says, You will cast into the depths of the sea our sins – He destroys them; He literally removes them and destroys them forever.
When our sins are forgiven in the confessional, they are gone. What this means is that we are changed. When we walk out of the confessional, we have in a sense undergone a new creation; and in that way we have to be able to look at the way that we live our lives. We should not act the way we used to when we come out of the confessional. We have an increase in sanctifying grace if we were not in the state of mortal sin, or a restoration of sanctifying grace if we were; regardless, our soul has been made pure. It is radiant with the grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in becoming a new creation in Christ, we have to act as a new creation. We have to act, as it says in the Gospel reading, as “brother and sister and mother” to Our Lord. We have to be like Jesus.
All too often, what happens is that we just simply take the confessional for granted. We go to confession, but we do not really make much of an attempt to change our lives, to reform the way we are living. We are just kind of content to keep on sinning and keep going to confession. Certainly, the confessional is there because we are going to sin, but it is a question of our own disposition. Are we trying to stop sinning? Which, is, remember what we tell God we are going to do in the Act of Contrition, that we are going to change our lives, that we are going to reform the way we live so we can truly live as brother and sister and mother to the Lord, so we can be living as true disciples, the ones who follow the Will of our heavenly Father. Sin, of course, is just the opposite of the Will of God. If we are content with sinning, we are not doing the Will of God; and, therefore, we are not in relationship with Our Lord the way that we should be, at least not the way He wants us to be. These are things we need to consider.
Today we celebrate the feast of the prophet Elijah, the greatest of all the prophets of the Old Testament. Elijah, as he looked at the Lord on Mount Sinai as the Lord asked him what he was doing there, he said, “I have been zealous with zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts.” Can we say that? “We have been zealous with zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts, seeking to do only the Will of God, working hard and praying hard to get rid of sin in our lives, trying to live truly upright and just lives.” That is the kind of zeal the Lord is looking for. Seeking in all things to do His Will, that is the call that we have. It is a call that each and every one of us shares. God wants us to be saints. He wants us to be truly holy. It is not enough just to practice mediocrity and say, “Well, as long as I can stay in the state of grace at least most of the time, that’s okay.” What is it doing for us? Granted, being in the state of grace is what is necessary, but God does not want us to do the minimum. He does not want us to be the least possible saint that we can be; He wants us to be the greatest saint that we can be. Why do we think it is okay to give God the absolute least that is possible? Why do we think it is okay to tell God, “All I want to do is the minimum”? Look at what He has done for us – He has given it all. What are we giving back? He wants all. He wants everything. He wants us to be great saints, and that is what our call is – to make sure we are seeking to rid ourselves of sin, to do the Will of God in all things, and to be zealous with zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.