Friday September 10, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22b-27) Gospel (St. Luke 6:39-42)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us that we have to remove the log that is in our eye before we are going to be able to tell anybody else about the little, tiny splinter that is in their eye. Now the question, of course, is "How does one do that?" because most of us do not even realize we have this huge beam right in the way. Well, Saint Paul, I think, discusses that point very clearly in the first reading and he tells us that we have to discipline ourselves in every way. If we were going to be an athlete, we would have to discipline ourselves, denying ourselves of various things so as to be able to achieve the goal for which we were striving. But far more importantly, we are striving for heaven. We are not striving to win a race or throw something the farthest or be the strongest or whatever it might be, but we are to be striving to be saints.
If you stop to think about it, if you really want to be a top athlete, you cannot settle for mediocrity. You cannot say, "Well, as long as IĎm at least able to run the distance, it doesnít matter to me how fast I do it." If you really want to be the athlete to win the race, you have to push yourself. We do not want to just be able to say, "All I want is to get into heaven in the lowest spot. All I want to do is make it to Purgatory because then I know that Iíll get to heaven." If we get to Purgatory, praise God! But if that is all we are aiming for, we are in trouble. We need to aim high. We want to be able to glorify God the most. Not in a prideful way to be able to say, "Iím doing this more than you," or, "Iím better than you," not at all, but because He is God and He deserves our love. He deserves to be glorified to the fullest extent of our ability. So if we want to make sure we are doing that, we have to push ourselves, and to do so in the spiritual life and in the growth in virtue.
Saint Paul says, I do not run aimlessly, I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing, but I drive my body and train it for fear that after having preached to others I myself would be disqualified. So for all of those who think that just because you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are going straight to heaven, Saint Paul, who went from place to place preaching the Gospel, was still concerned that he himself would lose his salvation. He did not think it was a guarantee, and it is not. We cannot sit back on our laurels and say, "Itís good enough. As long as I believe in the Lord and I do the absolute minimum to be able to get by, well, Iím in!" Not necessarily. We have to keep moving forward. Remember that principle in the spiritual life: You either move forward or backward; you never stay the same. So if you are not moving ahead then you are going backward. If that is the case, what happens is that you notice the log in your own eye less and less because you get further and further away from the One Who will be able to help you to see it. But as we grow in the spiritual life, we recognize it more and more because the closer we get to God the more we realize the things that stand in the way. And it is only through that self-discipline and through the life of prayer and virtue that we are going to be able to remove the log that is in the way.
That is what Our Lord is asking from each of us: to be able to strive for that kind of holiness that would be able to remove everything that is not of God so that we would not only be proficient in prayer but also in virtue, that we will be so holy that we will glorify God in our every word and action. That is when the log will be completely removed from our eye and we will truly be able to see clearly. That is Godís desire for us. It is not an easy thing to be able to do, but Saint Paul makes it very clear when he uses this analogy of the athletes. Just think how much a world-class athlete has to deny himself as he strives for perfection in his game, whatever it is. Those things are going to come and go and they mean nothing. The only thing that means something is the salvation of our souls and to be able to get to heaven. How much is it worth to us? How much are we willing to give up in this world in order to be able to obtain heaven in the next? That is what we have to think about, and be able to strive for holiness, to strive for perfection, and to seek the goal with our whole heart and soul and strength, the goal which in this life is union with Jesus so that we can be with Him forever in the next.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.