Wednesday March 2, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Lent
Reading (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:17-19)
In the first reading today, Moses, speaking to the people, tells them that he is placing before them the laws and commandments and statutes of God just as they had been given to him, and that he is giving them to the people so that they will be able to live according to the way of God and thereby demonstrate their intelligence. It also, of course, demonstrates, far more importantly than the intelligence, the obedience. Now where it demonstrates our intelligence is when we are willing to be able to say, “There is someone, namely God, who is infinitely more intelligent than I am, and therefore I will listen to what He is saying, I will accept the law as He has presented it, and I will be obedient to it.”
Unfortunately, what most people in our society think is that if we follow some external law what we are therefore doing is demonstrating a lack of intelligence because we are not thinking for ourselves. Well, the reality of the matter is just the opposite. It is to be able to acknowledge, by using our intelligence, the truth that God has presented. Of course, for us now as Christians, it is even far more the case because it is not just an external law, but it is something which is internal and it is a relationship. So it is to be able to show that we recognize Who Jesus Christ is and that we are going to live according to the way He has laid out for us, not an external set of precepts, but a life of holiness. It is to be able to demonstrate that we recognize what sin is and that we reject it, to be able to recognize the ways of the world and go against it, to be able to see where the truth lies and to accept it. That is the intelligence Moses is talking about, that we have the ability to be able to distinguish clearly between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, between right and wrong.
Unfortunately, for most Christian people, we do not demonstrate the intelligence that we have very well because we seem to choose the wrong thing quite regularly; and so all we are trying to do is demonstrate our pride, that somehow or another we know better than God and we can make our own decision as to what we want to do and therefore we are going to rebel. There is no intelligence at all that is demonstrated in this because we have just shown to the whole world that we reject the truth (at least in the area where we have chosen sin), that even though we know what is right and wrong, we have chosen the wrong thing.
When Our Lord came into the world, He told us, as we heard in the Gospel, that not even the smallest part of a letter – not even the dot above the “i”, in other words – is going to go away until the whole thing is fulfilled. And so everything that God has revealed is going to be fulfilled. But what God wants is for the fullness of truth to be fulfilled in each one of us, for us to be able to accept the truth and to embrace it and to live it. It is in this way that not only do we show the truth and the justice of God, but we show our own intelligence because we are demonstrating not pride but humility, we are demonstrating the truth that God has revealed, and we are demonstrating that we are going to live according to the truth. Not only, then, do we glorify God, but we show to the whole world that we recognize and live according to the truth.
Now we have all experienced it well enough that if you go out into the world and you do this people will say that you are stupid, that there is something wrong with you: “What kind of an idiot are you anyway? Can’t you think for yourself?” and all the stupid things they come up with. But the reality is that is because all they are trying to do is demonstrate what we do every time we sin: that we are going to reject the truth, that we are going to misuse our freedom to become selfish and to do the wrong thing.
What we really need to do is reject all of that nonsense and make sure that what we are doing is seeing what God has done, recognizing what He has revealed, and putting it into practice, and in this way, using the gifts that God has given us. That is, He has given us an intellect so that we can think, He has given us a will so that we can choose, and what He wants is for us to know the truth and to love it by using our mind and our will and thereby demonstrate the true intelligence that God has given us by demonstrating the truth that we can make the choice to do what is right. Then we will be living according to the fullness of our humanity, to the fullness of the dignity that God has given us, by conforming ourselves to the truth, by knowing the truth, loving the truth, and living the truth.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.