Monday August 9, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c) Gospel (St. Matthew 17:22-27)
We see in today’s readings once again one of these strange ironies that come up over and over again. That is, first of all, we hear in the Gospel about the temple tax and how they are wondering if Our Lord pays the temple tax. The irony of the whole thing, of course, is that He is the very purpose for which the temple is there. They did not exactly understand that at the time, but the fact of the matter is that He is the God Who was being worshiped in the temple – and He had to pay tax! It does not make sense, but the Lord says, “So that they may not be offended,” because they refused to believe Who He was. Of course, at that point, He was keeping His divinity hidden and so He was willing to pay the tax, but the fact that they did not understand Who He was, I think, is what is so important because we see it right at the very beginning of the Gospel as well, that He came into this world for the very purpose of being handed over, of being killed, and of being raised up on the third day. Once again, God, Whom we worship, the God Who is worshiped in the temple of the Old Testament, is the One Who is put to death. We see how the reverence that we have needs to be so carefully understood lest we be led astray into something that is false. The people did not understand Who He was and they could not accept Him, and therefore they refused to believe. They were going to put to death anything that shook up their own idea of what He was supposed to be.
The glory of Our Lord is that He hid His glory when He was on earth. We saw in the Transfiguration that we celebrated a couple of days ago the fact that He allowed that glory to be shown on one occasion, but we hear in the first reading what the glory of God was like. We hear, once again, about the dark cloud that we saw at the Transfiguration. We hear, then, about the glory of God shining through that cloud with a brightness, and what was above what appeared to be a waste shone like electrum and below it was like a fire. So we see the light and the brilliance of God, and it was that that Our Lord kept hidden. But that is the reality of Who He is, and that is what He continues to keep hidden. It is only by faith that we can understand that; it is by faith that we know it is the reality.
But when you come before Our Lord and indeed when you receive Him, it is that same glory which is at work in your soul. When you come out of the confessional and when you receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, your soul is brilliant, resembling the glory of God. That is what He gives to each one of us. That is the glory He wants for us, but, just like Himself, He keeps it hidden from us. We wander around liking to think that we are worthless and no-good and that God does not love us and all the litany of things that we go through, but that would have to be the same as saying, “I guess God doesn’t love Jesus,” Who is God and Who is love, “because He didn’t allow His glory to be seen.” He allowed Him to be put to death. He allowed Him to be misunderstood. He allowed Him to have to pay the tax to be worshiped in the very temple that was dedicated to Himself.
We should not be surprised that God does not allow our glory to be seen, especially by our own selves because, being that we are not God, we do not have humility down very well and therefore we would get so arrogant if we could really see the glory God is working within us. But we have to remember that we today are the temple of God. We can ask ourselves, “Are we requiring Our Lord to pay a tax to dwell within us, to be worshiped within us?” We need to make sure that our temple is filled with the glory of God and that we have a beautiful place for Him and that it is not going to be a taxing thing for Him to be there, but rather that what He finds within us is a place and a person of worship, a person who loves Him the way He deserves to be loved.
The irony of the whole thing should simply be within us, not within Him. We know Who He is. We are the ones who recognize in our hearts the glory which is His. We will not see it with our eyes in the Blessed Sacrament, we do not see it with our eyes in our own soul – but in our hearts we can. And that glory exists within each person who is in the state of grace. So we have to recognize that the irony simply is in us, that the glory will not be seen but it must be embraced and it must be believed. But we should not make that irony exist in Him because within us His glory can be seen. He can be worshiped freely. We can give to Him everything He deserves. Even if we do not see that we are worthy (because, of course, we are not), even if we cannot understand why God would want to do this within us, it does not matter; all that we need to do is accept the truth and live it and allow the true glory of Jesus Christ to shine forth from within the darkness of our humanity, to allow His glory to dwell within us, and to give to Him the glory which is due to His Person and to His Holy Name.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.