Friday November 19, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 10:8-11) Gospel (St. Luke 19:45-48)
In the first reading today, Saint John is told to take the scroll from the hand of the angel and eat it. And he is told that in his mouth it will be the sweetest thing, but when he swallows it, it will turn his stomach sour. This is precisely what happens when we deal with the Word of God. It is so beautiful and so sweet, yet at the same time it is something nobody seems to want to hear. That is exactly the point we see in the Gospel: Jesus goes in and preaches, the people are hanging on His words, and at the same time there are others who want to kill Him for what it is that He is saying and doing. So you see that at the exact same time something sounds so sweet and yet it is so offensive to so many.
The reason it is offensive is not because there is anything wrong with it it is the Word of God; it is perfect but rather it is because people do not want to hear it because it is a censure to their actions and to their thoughts. Therefore, they reject it. But because they cannot reject the truth of what is being spoken, what they want to do is kill the one who is speaking it. And for the one to whom God gives His word (as we would see, for instance, with the prophets), when they have to go and preach nobody wants to hear what they say. When they know what it is God wants, they can be filled with joy. They go out to preach the word and they would naturally think that everyone would have the same reaction as they would, but of course we know what happened to all the prophets. No one wanted to hear what they had to say. Therefore, they rejected them and ultimately put them to death.
Now the thing that we have to look at is the point that Our Lord Himself is making. He goes into the temple and says, This is to be a house of prayer, and yet you are turning it into a den of thieves. What has been happening in the Church for the last number of years is that there is less and less and less and less prayer going on. Lots of talking, lots of goofing around, lots of playing around, lots of running around, but very little prayer going on in most Catholic churches. Just go someplace and try to pray before Mass. Try to pray after Mass. I am sure we have all experienced it in various places. It just becomes a zoo and you cannot pray even if you want to. It is a house of prayer. The Blessed Sacrament is right there, and yet no one pays attention to Him. And just think what happens if you have ever tried to suggest to somebody that they should be quiet or maybe they should go outside or at least out to the foyer or down to the church hall. Boy, do they get angry. The word is sweet in the mouth; it is sour in the stomach. But we also need to look and ask, Have I myself given in to some of that? We need to make some changes if we have. If we are the ones giving in to making the house of God a den of thieves then we need to change it and we need to make it a house of prayer.
We have to remember also that each one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it is not just the church building where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved that is a house of prayer, but each one of us being a temple of God is to be a house of prayer. So we can also ask ourselves, Am I turning the house of prayer into a den of thieves? That is, am I failing to pray? Am I failing to live according to the word of God in my day-to-day life? Is there something that I should be doing for the Lord that I am not? Am I stealing from God by refusing to give Him what is His due? All of us can look at that same point and see where perhaps we are not praying as we should when we are called to be a house of prayer. We are called to be a temple of the Holy Spirit wherein the Most Holy Trinity Himself dwells, and yet how much attention do we really give Him? If we are going to be upset when people are turning the church building into a social hall, why is it that we are not upset when we turn the temple of God our own bodies into a social hall? Why is it that we are not upset when we turn this house of prayer our own hearts and souls into a den of thieves?
Once again, we see how the Word of God cuts like a two-edged sword. It is sweet in the mouth and sour in the stomach because we do not like to change, because we do not want to do what God wants us to do sometimes. Even though we recognize the truth of it and it is very sweet, when it comes down to putting it into practice we rebel and it becomes sour. That is the point that was being made to Saint John. It is the point that needs to be made to each one of us as well. We have to be willing to do Gods Will. We have to be willing to make the changes in our lives. We need to be willing to be detached. We need to be willing to truly be a house of prayer, a place of worship, a place that is set aside for the glory of God. That is what Our Lord is asking of us and there is nothing that is sweeter, there is nothing that is more beautiful, yet if we do not want it there is nothing that is more sour.
God is asking of you great things, to be truly a temple of the Lord, to be a house of prayer, to be a place of worship, to be a place where God Himself is reserved with the greatest glory, the greatest honor. And that, in both our mouth and our stomach, in our hearts and souls, if we are willing to do it, will be the sweetest of all possible sweetness, because when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist just think of what we say at the time of Benediction: He contains all sweetness within Himself He gives Himself to us in the fullness of His being so that that sweetness will not only be in our mouth, but that sweetness will be within and it will transform our lives if we are willing to allow it. Otherwise, what is the sweetest is going to be the most sour to us if we do not want it. But if we are willing, He Who contains all sweetness within Himself will make His dwelling within us and we will become the very sweetness of heaven itself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.