Friday January 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Agnes
Reading (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:44-46)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul, in speaking to the Corinthians, reminds them of their background. The Corinthians, we recall, had a problem; there was lots of infighting and they were split up in different ways. They would claim, “I belong to this one,” and, “I belong to that one.” Who was more important was the question that they were really looking at. We recall that when Our Lord’s disciples were arguing about that same question He answered it in a way similar to Saint Paul, that is, He called a little child to them and pointed out who was really most important in the kingdom of heaven. And He told us also that the one who is the greatest is the one who would serve the rest.
That is exactly opposite of what the world would consider, but that is the nature of Christianity: It is exactly the opposite of the world. That is precisely the point all of us need to consider. We have been called by God not because we were the best that the world had to offer, because it is exactly the opposite of the world. If there is somebody who wants to be worldly, there really is not any place for that within the Church because as a Christian person you are already professing that you are going to live opposite of the ways of the world. But, unfortunately, the worldly ways have come very much into the Church these days and they are affecting people very deeply. So we need to make sure we are working that stuff out of our lives.
But in the same token, Saint Paul is telling us (and this is, again, something that all of us need to keep firmly in mind) that God chose the weak to shame the strong, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, God chose the lowly and the despised of the world and those who count for nothing to put to shame those whom the world considers to be something of importance. Again, we see very clearly what the Lord is doing. He has called us because we were the weak, we were the foolish, we were the ones the world would not have considered to be of any importance; and He is going to use precisely that means to put to shame all of the worldly power and all of those who think they do not need God.
And it is going to be very evident to everyone, as it should be already in our own lives if we are truly living the Christian life, that this could not be us. There is no possible way that we are going to be able to do this – only God can. That is the part that is important: to make sure that the way we are living our lives is in such a way that it will be evident to everybody that this is the Lord. If we want to live like everybody else out in the world, everybody is going to look at us and think how wonderful we are and isn’t it great that we can fit in. That is not the way Jesus lived His life. He did not fit in; they hated Him because He did not live like the others. We need to make sure we are striving for the same sort of thing, not living in some sort of obnoxious way, but rather living a quiet Christian life, living the spiritual life, living the life of Christ.
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that the kingdom of heaven is like something that is hidden, a buried treasure, a pearl that is inside of an oyster. It is something that is not just simply evident all by itself. It is going to require some work to find it, and it is going to be hidden. So for us, the kingdom of heaven is going to be hidden. The question is, are we willing to do the work to find it, to live it? Are we willing to go forth and get rid of everything else that is not of heaven in order to obtain heaven? Those are the kinds of things we need to think about. The kingdom of heaven, in this sense, is ultimately the Lord Himself, and He is hidden deep within. The Trinity itself dwells within each one of us if we are in the state of grace. Are we willing to do whatever it requires to be able to obtain that treasure?
If we really are the weak and the lowly, the despised and the foolish, we have no reason to boast. We have nothing to be able to point to ourselves and say, “Look at what I’ve done.” All we have the right to do is to look at Jesus and say, “Look at what He has done. Look at who He picked to demonstrate His sense of humor, and now look at what He has done with the ones He has chosen.” That is the only thing we can say. We cannot boast about this as though somehow it is what we have done – because we have not. Anything good in us, the Lord has done in us. We can say only that we cooperated. And even that is kind of humorous because most of us have probably gone kicking and screaming as the Lord had to do His work by dragging us through something. So we cannot even really say that we have cooperated very well. It is all the grace from God and we need to be so grateful for what He has done, for choosing us, for calling us, for forming us, for helping us to be able to see that this buried treasure of Jesus Christ is worth more than anything else and everything else combined, and for giving us the grace for being able to say “yes”. Now we have to allow Him to form us the rest of the way so that He really can through us put the worldly power completely to shame.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.