Thursday October 14, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 1:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 11:47-54)
Our Lord, in the Gospel today, condemns those who are scholars in the law and tells them that they have taken away the key of knowledge, that they neither enter heaven themselves, but worse, they have stopped anyone who wants to enter. This is quite an interesting point to make to someone who would call himself a scholar, that they have taken away the key of knowledge. The difference, however, in the point that He is making is not that these were not intelligent, scholarly people, but rather that what has happened is they get caught in their heads. But the relationship with God is not merely in the head; it is one of the heart. Therefore, when we compare that with what Saint Paul tells us that in Christ God has given us all grace, that He has destined us for adoption to Himself for the praise of the glory of His grace that He has granted us in His beloved it is the grace of God, then, that opens the mind to be able to understand, but it is the grace of God that opens the heart to be able to love. That is the point where the knowledge that is necessary comes from.
When we are talking about the knowledge to enter into heaven, it is not about book knowledge. We need to know what the Church teaches, we need to know the catechism, but if somebody simply has knowledge of the catechism that will not get them into heaven it is not enough. There are lots of people who know what the Church teaches but they have rejected it. They have head knowledge regarding the Faith, but they do not believe it. It is what is in the heart that is most important, and that is exactly what we hear from Saint Paul when he says, God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before Him. So we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. And when we hear later on in Saint Paul, in this same Epistle to the Ephesians when he talks about the Church, the Bride of Christ, She is to be without spot or wrinkle or blemish of any sort, here he is pointing out that we are the Bride of Christ, that we are called in Christ to be without spot or blemish of any kind, which is not something that you can do in your mind. This is something that can only be done in the heart because it is about love. It is about being the spouse of Jesus Christ, and that is not a matter of the mind. It is not going to do you much good to think about what it would be like to be the spouse of Christ. All that matters is loving Christ. Following from that, you can reflect upon it in the mind to be able to say, What does this mean? What insight can be gained from it? But it is a lived reality rather than an ivory tower thought process.
That is the point Our Lord is making when He is condemning the scholars of the law. The law is the Word of God, so there was nothing by itself that was wrong. And to know the law is not a problem, but it was a matter that they took the law and stripped it from God and made it something of its own. Therefore, they stripped the relational element from it and held it up just as some external thing that exists on its own accord and has reference to God, but they lost the actual reference itself. That is, they missed the fact that this was the Will of God. For us, then, it is to be able to see the Will of God for us to be holy, to be without blemish, to be united in Christ. It is through that that we have all knowledge. The knowledge of Christ comes not from a book, but from a relationship. Once again, it is knowing Christ not knowing about Christ. It helps to be able to know about Him, but that is not the point. We have to know Jesus Christ, and we can only know Him through a relationship with Him. It is critical that we know about Him, that we know the teachings of the Church, but what is most important then is that we take it to the next level and enter into this relationship so we can know Jesus Christ; and in knowing Him, to be united with Him, as a spouse is united with spouse, so that we will be holy and without blemish, chosen in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the praise of the grace and glory of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.