Wednesday June 15, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells us: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Now we look at that and he goes on to tell us that we each have to give according to what we have already determined interiorly; we cannot be forced into something. And, he says, it also needs to be done cheerfully because God loves a cheerful giver. To give according to some sort of exterior force, of course, is not a gift. It is extortion, if that is the case, and that is not what the Lord is seeking.
But the Lord Himself tells us also that it needs to go beyond that. Jesus tells us that we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, that we are to make sure when we give that it is not to seek attention. It is not to get any kind of notoriety for what it is that we are doing, because, He said, if that is the case, then you have already received your reward. And so if Saint Paul is telling us that if we sow bountifully we will also reap bountifully, then we see that there is also a condition on that, that is, that we are doing it for the right reason and in the right manner. That makes things a little more difficult.
Now Our Lord also makes clear to us that it is not just about money. That is the context of what Saint Paul is speaking of because there was a collection that was being taken up to help the Christians in Jerusalem who were being persecuted, but Our Lord in the Gospel reading tells us that it also deals with prayer, it deals with fasting, it simply deals with any kind of gift that we are going to offer to the Lord. To accept suffering in our lives and offer that up, to spend time in prayer, to do anything for the Lord is something acceptable. So it is not just about the money; in fact, that is probably the least of it.
But for Americans, it is something that we need to consider because we get way too attached to money and we make it into a little god. Maybe it needs to be sacrificed. That is what God required of all the false gods that the Israelites worshiped. If you look back in the Old Testament, everything that they worshiped falsely, God made them offer in sacrifice because He was going to make clear to them that this thing was not a god. Remember that Aaron made a golden calf. So what did Aaron have to offer for his own sins? A bull. It was gone. Once you offer it, it is not there anymore. So we need to look at the areas of our lives where we have attachments. We need to look at the areas of our lives where there is pride and selfishness. We need to look at the areas of our lives where we are weak. Maybe those are the things that we really need to focus in on. And it does not matter what it is – as the Lord was telling us in the Gospel just last week, If your hand causes you to sin, cut it out; if it’s your eye, pull it out, and so on. Look at the areas in your life. What is the problem? Sacrifice it to the Lord, whatever it might be.
Spend the time in prayer, accept the sacrifices and the sufferings, offer yourself to God generously, and as long as it is a gift truly given to the Lord out of the generosity of your heart, it will be repaid abundantly. If, on the other hand, you are giving so that you will get back more than what you gave, it might not happen because God is not going to be bribed. God wants someone who is truly seeking charity and is seeking it with a joyful heart, that love of God and love of neighbor that is going to be expressed through prayer. It is going to be expressed through offering up our sufferings. It is going to be expressed through cheerful giving, through the service of other people. That is what the Lord is looking for. If we are willing to be generous with Him, He will pay us back in great abundance.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.