Monday September 20, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Proverbs 3:27-34) Gospel (St. Luke 8:16-18)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that no one lights a lamp and then conceals it underneath something else or puts it under the bed, but rather it is placed where everyone is going to be able to see the light. Then He goes on to tell us, To anyone who has, more will be given, and those who seem to have not, even the little they seem to have is going to be taken away. What exactly is He getting at? He is pointing out that each one of us is a lamp He Himself has lit, and He has placed it where it can be seen. The question has to do with whether or not we are willing to be seen.
A lamp in the darkness cannot be hidden unless you intentionally put it underneath something. So if we have made sure that no one gets to see the light of Christ shining through us because of whatever reason – because we do not want to be rejected by them, because we do not want the ridicule, because we do not want to deal with all the fallout that will inevitably come if we are going to live the life of Christ – then what happens is that we put out the light. What will happen, as we see with the saints, is that they have an abundance of grace and they just keep getting more. But for those who do not cooperate with God’s grace, they are going to lose the little bit they have because they keep putting out the flame. The Lord wants to have that flame lighted and burning bright so that everyone can see it, but we keep putting it out because we do not want to be seen. We do not want to be known as being Catholic. Whether it is because we are embarrassed of it or because it is politically incorrect or whatever it may be, the choice we keep making is to put the flame out. Consequently, the flame does not grow and it does not draw anyone to itself. And so even the little, tiny bit that we have, if we keep doing that, is going to be lost.
If you think of the way lamps were in ancient days, they were oil lamps. The more you would let out the wick, the bigger the flame would become; and the more you would pull the wick back in, the smaller the flame. And so there are those people who would say, “Well, I can still let the fire burn but I’ll just let the wick out a little, tiny bit.” It looks like it is just a little, tiny flame, but it can be blown out very easily and if they keep retracting the wick there is not going to be anything left at all.
The Lord wants to be known and He wants our light to shine. We live in a world of darkness; it does not take much to be able to allow the light of Christ to shine these days. You do not have to be a great saint to be able to be recognized as a follower of Christ; you just simply have to live the life. But we are told, even in the first reading, what some of that is about. It is about charity. That is what we are created for and that is what we are commanded to do and it is that which is the hallmark. In Proverbs, we hear about that today, that if there is somebody who has a claim on something we are to do it immediately. If there is good that we can do for someone, we are not to say, “Come back tomorrow and then I’ll do it,” but it is to be done right away. It is to be done with an attitude of charity, with a positive disposition, with joy in our hearts. That is the way the Lord is going to ask that we would do things.
Remember when His disciples would try to keep people away from Him and He would chastise them. Most of us would probably think they were doing us a great favor because we are already exhausted and we do not have anything more to give, but instead His disposition was one of charity. When we come before Him in prayer, we expect that He is going to be right there paying attention to what we are saying and acting very quickly upon what it is that we are asking. Yet, when it comes to ourselves, we do not always live by those same standards. Sometimes – even very rarely – do we live by those standards. Once again, we can look and ask ourselves, “How brightly is my light shining? How much of the wick am I letting out?”
It is easy to be a Catholic here in the morning when you are surrounded by a bunch of other people who are doing the exact same thing. So the question is not “How Catholic are you when you’re in the chapel?” The question is “How Catholic are you when you’re out in the world?” When you walk out from the chapel with Jesus in your heart, how brightly is your light shining? How deeply are you living your faith in your day-to-day life? How much will people be able to see the love of God shining through you and be drawn, not to you, but to the Light Who is Christ Himself? Those are the things we need to look at within our own lives, the questions we need to ask. And they are critically important for us because if our light is not shining brightly, even the little we have is going to be lost. But if we are allowing that light to shine and people are being drawn to Christ, then the gift that the Lord has given us is being used for His glory and what we have is going to be added to so that the fire is going to burn even more brightly and the grace of God is going to be given to more because of the charity we have practiced. That is the situation as it stands. If we are going to truly live what it is that we claim, we cannot hide the lamp, we cannot pull the wick back, we cannot bury the flame, but we have to walk out into the darkness of this world with the love of God shining in our hearts. We have to make sure that light is shining so brightly that every single person is going to recognize it for what it is.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.