Monday June 13, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 6:1-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:38-42)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord lays out for us what it really means if we are going to be His follower. It means we have to give. And it means that we have to go, as He points out, the extra mile. When we think about how things would be on the natural level, first of all, we would try to hang onto what we have. If someone wants your coat, what would you do? Well, instead of saying, “Hang onto it and keep it for yourself,” the Lord says, Give him your cloak as well. If someone wants to press you into service for one mile, instead of kicking and screaming and seeing how little you can get away with, the Lord says, Go with him for two miles.
In other words, it is a matter of taking the charity and taking it to the extreme so that people have to wonder what it is you are doing and why. In wondering about these sorts of things, then what they are going to have to do is realize that it is not for any natural reason that you are doing what you are doing, but rather it is out of love for God. The thing He wants us to bring into the world is that love for the Lord. And the way we are going to show that is not by doing the absolute minimum, but rather it is by being truly charitable, by showing the love of God in the way we act and in the way we live.
This is not an easy thing for us to do. Just think of all the opportunities that we would have everyday to really be able to exercise this kind of charity: the kind of patience that we could show to somebody, the kindness that we could show to somebody, whatever it might be. There are countless opportunities everyday to be able to be truly charitable, to be Christian in the fullest sense of what that means. We begin to understand, as we apply these things to ourselves, that if the Lord is really asking of us to go a step further, to practice true and heroic Christian charity, we see how often we fail even in the smallest little things. We do not have to worry about giving up a cloak or going an extra mile – we have to worry about saying a kind word, maintaining our joy, maintaining our patience, just simply being charitable. That is what Our Lord is asking of us: to die to self, to die to our own selfish desires so that we can serve another, so that we can do what is right for another.
That is not easy, but it is exactly what Saint Paul is talking about. He says, In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through endurance in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts, and goes on from there. Again, he is saying that in the midst of all of these things we still have to present ourselves in a certain way. If he is presenting himself as a minister of God, that means he is not swearing at somebody, he is not cussing, he is not cursing, he is accepting things, he is being charitable, kind, patient, joyful, and so on. This is exactly what Scripture tells us. Remember when he was beat with rods and thrown into prison and chained down, at midnight he was singing hymns in thanksgiving and praise to God. How many of us could do that?
That is the kind of thing Our Lord is looking for, to make sure we keep our focus on Him and that we keep our proper disposition regardless of the situation. When we try to do that, we will find out just how far we really have to go in this whole process of growth in virtue, of growth in holiness. But that is what Christian life is all about: to keep our focus on God, to do everything in God, and to do everything in such a way that anyone who is looking at us or experiencing what we do will recognize that what we are doing and the reason why we are doing it is all about Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.