Wednesday November 17, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 4:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 19:11-28)
As Our Lord today speaks about the parable of this man who went off to a far away kingdom to become the king, He is clearly speaking of Himself; and the place where He was going, of course, was heaven. He is going to return after a long time, and what He is going to do is give to His servants an allotment of grace. We are supposed to do something with it. We are to use it in order for that grace to grow. And so what the Lord is going to be expecting of us when He returns (or when He calls us to Himself, whichever comes first) is that we are going to be able to stand before Him and say, “Lord, You gave me this much grace and here is what I’ve done with it.” He is not going to be happy, obviously, if we say to Him, “You gave me this much grace; here it is in return. I didn’t do anything with it.” That is not an option. The kingship of Christ is one in which we have to serve.
Now we can look at it and say exactly what the servant who was called wicked in the Gospel said: “You take up what You did not lay down, and You harvest what You did not plant.” We could say, “Look, I’m the one who did the work. I’m the one who was doing all of these things. Why should You get the credit? Why should I be giving it back to You?” It is because we love Him. It is not because He is this unreasonable, demanding kind of individual, but rather it is out of love. When we love somebody, we want to give them everything. When we love somebody, we are going to take what has been given to us and we are going to make it better. Our Lord, out of love for us, has given everything; and then we, out of love for Him, are asked to give back.
So if we look at ourselves and ask, “What is it that we can give to the Lord in return for what He has given to us?” it is not that by ourselves we can give Him anything. What do we have of ourselves to give? Nothing. But Our Lord has given to us His grace and He has raised us up to a supernatural level of acting and being. In giving us a share in His divine nature, we are able to act in a divine way. It is that that we are able to give back. And since it was not us in the first place who did it, we cannot take credit for it. We cannot say, “This is what I did and I deserve to have it. Who do You think You are wanting to take this?” He is the One Who raised us up in the first place, He is the One Who gave us the grace to do whatever it is we were doing that would be meritorious, and He is the One Who gave the reward! All that we did was to cooperate with Him.
Then, even if we wanted to be totally selfish (which would be completely the wrong reason for doing anything), all we have to do is look at the first reading and we can see all the elders and all the angels around the throne, and we can say, “Is that where I want to be? Or do I want to miss out on that?” In order to get into heaven, number one, we have to be in the state of grace, and, number two, we have to be able to bring to Our Lord whatever it is He has given to us and whatever we have done with the gift He has given. And so if we look at ourselves and say, “If I want to be able to go to heaven, I need to do something with this grace that He has given to me,” we each have to ask ourselves, “Am I acting in a divine manner? Am I doing things that are leading me toward heaven? Am I living the life of Jesus Christ? Am I seeking to serve Him?” Or are we like the delegation that was sent after Him to say, “We despise this man and we will not have Him as our king”? If that is our attitude, we have made our choice. If we want to be our own king or our own queen, then we do not want Jesus. If we want somebody else to be our king, then we do not want Jesus.
We have one king, and that is Jesus Christ. Out of love for Him we are called to serve, just as out of love for us He has served us. It is not an injustice to us, but rather it is the most just thing possible. We are called to serve Him out of love. Out of love not only did He die for us, but out of love He has united us with Himself and given us a share in His own life. Now with that life of Christ given to us, we are called to love in return and to serve Him with our whole heart and soul and strength, and to take what He has given us, to increase it, and to bring it back to Him many times more than what it is that He originally gave to us. It is the usual thing that I have told you many times: In the spiritual life, as well as in love, you either increase or you decrease. The little you have will be taken away if you do not use it. And if you use it, it will increase and bear fruit – thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold –to return to Our Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.