Tuesday October 12, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Galatians 5:1-6) Gospel (St. Luke 11:37-41)
Saint Paul, in the first reading, is making this distinction again between justification by the law (he tells us that no one is going to be able to be justified that way) and justification by faith and love in Jesus Christ (he tells us that is the only way we are going to be justified). Our Lord, in the Gospel reading, tells us similar things. The Pharisees, He points out, are going to be very scrupulous about washing the outside of the cup and dish, but inside things are still filthy. In other words, they are going to be very careful about making sure the body is clean so that their hands and their feet have been ritually purified. They make sure everything is just proper before they eat or before they do other things, and yet what is most important their soul is not necessarily cared for. The Lord is then pointing out to them that if they want to be truly clean they have to give from the inside, they have to cleanse from the inside. It is not just a matter of external observance.
Sort of like if someone is Catholic and they show up for Mass and pay no attention and just go through the motions but they do not put their heart into anything. Then they say, But I went to Mass, so Im justified. God should be happy with me because I actually showed up at church. Why? The heart was not there. There was an external observance of a ritual but there was no internal prayer; the disposition of the heart was lacking. That is precisely the point Our Lord is getting at. Saint Paul makes very clear that if we want to be justified it is going to be through faith and through love love working through faith. So if we are going to profess our belief in Jesus Christ, then we have to act upon that belief. It is to be able to enter into the rituals, but to be able to put our whole heart into what it is that we are doing, to unite ourselves with Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass, not just to be an external observer sitting back and watching what is happening, but uniting ourselves with Him. That is the way we are to be loving Christ and uniting ourselves with Him.
And as we receive Holy Communion, again, it is not just something we do everyday and so we come to the communion rail and receive Our Lord and walk away as though nothing really happened, but rather to make sure that we are seeking to have the proper disposition as we receive Him and as we return to our pews that we maintain that interior disposition and immerse ourselves in prayer so we are united with Jesus Christ, Who dwells within the soul at that moment.
That is the kind of thing Our Lord is looking for, to make sure we are doing what is required by God; not in a legalistic sense, but rather doing what is required by God out of love, which means that if we love we will do what is required not merely because this is what we have to do but because we love God and therefore we are going to do what is right and proper. And we are going to do them not just as a matter of external observance but truly as a matter of charity, as a matter of love for God. That is the sort of thing Our Lord is looking for, and that is the true justification Saint Paul is speaking of, that if we are going to profess our faith in Christ it is going to be expressed in true charity out of true love for God, uniting ourselves and our hearts not just by external observance but by internal observance through true love for Jesus in the very things that He has asked us to do.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.