Tuesday June 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 13:2, 5-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:6, 12-14)
When we think about the old law, we know that there are 613 specific precepts that the Jewish people were required to follow, and we tend to think about the old laws being extraordinarily restrictive. Saint Paul speaks about the law and how sin is accounted because of the law and so on. He goes on and on about all these points, and all of it is true. However, when it really comes down to the intention of the Lawgiver, Who is God Himself, there is no intention to restrict, but rather the intention is to provide freedom by knowing what it is that we are doing, that is, by knowing that what we are doing is right. Freedom – true freedom – is doing the Will of God because God wants only what is the very best for us. Therefore, if we are doing the Will of God, what we are doing is the very best and the most perfect thing. Consequently, there is the greatest freedom for our souls.
This is why the Lord tells us that the law and the prophets is simply to treat others the way you would have them treat you, in other words, true charity. It is the opposite of what most people think of when they think about the old law. Most people thinking about it, again, think of something very negative. The Lord, on the other hand, tells us that if we were really to live the law and the prophets it would be simply a matter of charity. It only makes perfect sense, because what is the new law? To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.
God does not change; He cannot. Therefore, we do not have one kind of God in the Old Testament and a different kind of God in the New Testament. We do not have one facet of God being demonstrated in the old and a different facet in the new, because there are not any facets in God. You cannot divide Him up or separate Him in any way. It is the exact same God with the exact same attributes and no change. The change has to be in the people.
In the Old Testament times, the laws were given because of the disobedience of the people, because they did not want to follow what God had told them to do. Consequently, He had to put laws on them in order to keep them from doing the things that were wrong. They knew what was right in their heart; they just did not want to do it. Things have not changed there either. We know what is right and we know what is wrong – the question is doing it.
So we have now the law of love. And we have then, in that law of love, perfect freedom to be able to do what we were created to do in order to find fulfillment, in order to be able to be perfectly happy in this life. Even in the midst of this unfortunate society that has gone so far astray, we can find true happiness by simply doing what we were made to do, that is, to love and to treat others the way we would want them to treat us. That summarizes the entire law and the prophets, and it is also the teaching of Jesus Christ. It is all one and the same because it is the same Word of God and it is the same God, Who does not change, Who cannot change. The change needs to take place not in God but in us, to be able to embrace what the Lord has revealed and to be able to live it. To embrace it and to live it is to do what we were created to do, it is to do that which will bring us the greatest happiness and fulfillment. And that is simply to love.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.