Tuesday June 14, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:43-48)
In the readings today, we are challenged rather severely to practice true charity. Saint Paul, for instance, points out what the people in Macedonia had done. In a severe test of affliction, he said, in their profound poverty, their generosity was so great that they actually insistently begged the apostles to be able to offer financial help to the people of Jerusalem who were suffering under persecution. And Saint Paul says that they gave themselves way beyond what was expected. They gave themselves, first to God, secondly to the apostles, and then they gave of their financial means (which they were completely impoverished, he says) so that others would be able to eat, to prosper.
Then Our Lord in the Gospel reading challenges us in the same sort of way. He says to us that God allows the sun to rise on the good and the bad, and He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. He tells us that we have to have that same kind of charity. He said that if we only greet those who are our brothers, what is there in that? If we are only kind to those who are kind to us, what is there in that? He said that tax collectors and sinners do the same thing. If we are going to be true children of our heavenly Father, it is going to require true charity; and that charity is to treat people with kindness even if we do not like them, to treat people with kindness even if they are people who have not treated us with kindness.
These are obviously things that do not come naturally to us, but what we are about is not something that is natural. What we are about is something supernatural. It is about faith and hope and charity. These are gifts that are infused into our souls by God. These are not natural-level gifts but supernatural gifts. Therefore, they have to find expressions in a way that go beyond what is merely natural to us.
Again, we go back to Saint Paul and he is challenging the Corinthians, as he says, to show their love by comparison to what others have shown. And he tells them that their love is going to be shown by their concern for others. So that is the thing we have to look at: our true charity, our concern for others. Not only just those who are in agreement, not only just those with whom we are friends, but true charity is ultimately going to be shown toward those who are not the ones we would prefer. This is exactly what Saint Paul tells us that Jesus did. We just heard the reading on Sunday that Jesus, Who is God, came down to us while we were still His enemies and He died for us. It was not because we were His friends, it was not because we were so wonderful and so kind to Him that He was willing to do this for us, but it was while we were yet sinners and enemies of God that He was willing to show His love in this manner.
So the challenge is given to each one of us to give as it has been given to us, to show the kind of love that we have received from God. This is not easy and it is not anything we can do by ourselves. Only by the grace of God are we going to be able to do this because it is not a work on the natural level. It is something supernatural, but it is the very thing by which we are to be known – by the charity that we show to others.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.