Thursday June 9, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:20-26)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that our holiness must surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees. And He goes on to give us some examples; for instance, not only are we not to kill but He is talking even about being angry with somebody, He is talking about being at odds with another person. But we can understand why the Lord would say this when we look at Saint Paul. Saint Paul tells us that we are being transformed from glory to glory as we behold the face of God.
If that is the case, we cannot continue to live in a worldly manner. We cannot continue to live just like anybody else. If we are being transformed from one degree of glory into the next, that means we have to continue to grow in holiness. And as we continue to grow in holiness, what should happen is that there will be a deeper peace within our hearts and the virtues that are going to be present within us are going to be more evident. So it is not just a matter of following the letter of the law, nor is it a matter of following the way that it was in the Old Testament times; but rather, in Christ, that glory into which we are being transformed is the glory of Christ Himself, to become Christ. That is the way we have to live our lives.
This idea that Saint Paul is talking about is something which is very, very important for us to be able to understand, that, as in the Old Testament when Moses would cover his face so the people would not see the glory, the problem was not so much the face of Moses but rather that when the people of the Old Testament heard the Word of God their hearts were veiled. They did not understand what it was that God was telling them, how it was that He would send His Son into the world, how He would be both God and man, how He would be born of the Virgin, and so on, all of the things that the Gospel presents. Even still, and most evidently in our own day, there are many who will not accept. And so Saint Paul says that the Gospel is veiled only from those for whom the god of the present age has veiled their minds. If we give in to the worldliness, we cannot understand the Gospel or at least we will reject it. If we give in to be like everyone else, then we cannot be transformed into Christ. It is not possible.
We, as Saint Paul says, are looking at God with unveiled faces because the glory of God shines within us. God dwells within, so we do not have to put a veil on, not only to look at Moses, but even to look at God. We can come before the Lord in adoration, and there in our humanity we can behold Him. We do not behold Him in the fullness of His glory (that is, the way we will see Him in heaven), but nonetheless, the fact is that we can even come before Him and kneel before Him and pray, the fact is that we can be united with Him, the fact is that we can receive Him in Holy Communion – this is the point Saint Paul is getting at. The people of the Old Testament could not even look at Moses’ face! Moses was the servant of God. They could not even look at Moses, let alone God. And we receive God into ourselves. We can behold Him face to face as we kneel before Him in adoration.
As we do this, we have to be transformed into the One Whom we receive, into the One before Whom we kneel, into the One Whose face we behold. That is what he is getting at, and that is the kind of holiness the Lord is looking for. Not merely an external holiness of following the letter of the law – that was the Pharisaical way of being holy – but the Lord is looking for an interior transformation, to become like Him, to be transformed into Christ. So as we receive Him and as we pray, we should be watching and noticing the change that happens inside of our own selves as we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next, as we behold God with unveiled faces.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.