Monday July 11, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 1:8-14, 22) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:34-11:1)
In the first reading today, we hear about the Egyptians who are forcing the Israelites into cruel slavery and all the horrible things that they had to do. Yet, at the same time, what we look at within our own lives is this slavery that we are dealing with which is far, far worse than that which the Egyptians inflicted upon the Israelites, because the slavery that our society is in is a slavery to Satan. It is not a slavery to a human king or to a human people, but rather it is a slavery to sin and it is a slavery to the devil.
And so Our Lord comes into this world to free us from that slavery, but the price is not an easy one. Not only is the price the blood of Our Lord, but if we are going to be freed from this slavery, like the children of Israel, we are going to have to make a journey out of the land of slavery, across the desert, and into the Promised Land. We would simply like to be able to say, “We’re free! We’re out!” But that is not the way it worked for the people of Israel and it is not the way it works for us either. All of us know that if we try to overcome some area of sin in our lives, we can go to confession and our sin is forgiven. On that level we are free. But just like Pharaoh saying to the Israelites, “Get out of my country,” okay, now they were going to leave and what were they going to do? They were free but they still had to walk across the desert. So we come out of the confessional; now we have to fight against these areas of sin in our lives.
Our Lord tells us that, number one, He has come to bring a sword instead of peace. Certainly that can be understood on the objective level, but on the subjective level we realize what we have to do. If we are going to overcome sin, it is going to require a fight. He did not come just to simply say, “Your sins are gone. You can be completely at peace now.” He came to bring a sword. We have to fight against sin.
Then He told us that we have to love Him more than anything else. This is critical, not only that we love Him more than anyone on the human level, but we have to love Him more than we love sin, because if we love sin more than we love Christ, we are basically telling Him that we love Satan more than we love Him. I do not think any of us want to say that, but the problem is by our actions that is precisely what we do. So, once again, the fight is on. This is why Our Lord tells us that whoever will lose his life will save it, but whoever will try to save his life will lose it. If we are caught up in ourselves, and in fact if we love ourselves more than we love Christ we are in the same boat because then we will only do His Will as long as it is something that seems convenient to us or if it is something that we like. But if it is the idea of having to go out across the desert, to take up the sword and fight against Satan and his minions and our own inclinations, well, that does not sound very fun. If we are caught up in ourselves, we are not going to be willing to take on the battle. We have to love Christ more than anything.
And the only way we are going to know if we love Him that much is completely laid out for us right here in the Gospel. Whoever loves Me will take up his cross and follow Me. That is the only way: if we are willing to follow in His footsteps, if we are willing to take the Cross upon our shoulders and be crushed underneath the weight of it, to be crucified upon it. It is the only way. If we are unwilling to do that, then what we really have to acknowledge within ourselves is that we love something or someone more than Christ. The “someone” we love more than Christ is first and foremost self, and the things that we love more than Christ are all of our sins. Do any of us really want to say that? We can look at a crucifix and we can look in the mirror, then we can ask ourselves, “Where does my hope lie?” If anyone thinks that the hope lies in the self, we are in big trouble – forever. Our only hope is in Christ, and our only hope is in the Cross.
That is what Our Lord is asking us to do. If we want to be free from the slavery to sin and to Satan, then we need to be willing to take up the Cross. We need to be willing to pick up the sword and to fight, to cut these sins out of our lives so that we can be free. That is the only way. So there are the two elements necessary: to go to Confession, so that the sins are forgiven and the bonds of slavery are broken; but then to cross the desert, to fight against these inclinations within ourselves, to win the battle in order to enter into the Promised Land, to take up the Cross and follow Our Lord everyday.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.