Thursday August 25, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Thessalonians 3:7-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 24:42-51)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord gives to us a very clear warning, and that is the warning to stay awake – spiritually, that is – to make sure that we are remaining vigilant. He tells us, first of all, that He is going to be long delayed in His return and He also tells us that if we are not going to be faithful then what is going to happen is we are going to start beating the fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, and then the master will arrive on an unexpected day.
If we look around, this is precisely what we see going on. If someone truly wants to be faithful to Our Lord, sometimes the ones who treat them the worst are the ones who call themselves Catholic. Do you want to dress modestly these days? It is the Catholics oftentimes who are going to give you the most grief. If you want to do what is right, it is the Catholics who are going to give you the most grief. It is because they know it is what they are supposed to be doing. But if they have chosen to be like the world and you have decided not to be, then they are going to kick you around, basically beating their fellow servants. Of course, these are also people who have decided to live a worldly life, eat and drink with the drunkards, throw everything off to the side while continuing, of course, to give the Lord lip service and maybe even showing up for Mass every now and again on a Sunday. They are going to make sure that the world knows they are Catholic, but that they really do not care about their faith. What is more important in this society is having fun and being like everyone else. So Our Lord tells us that this is exactly what is going to happen to some of those who are called to be His servants. There are the good servants and the wicked servants. The wicked servants, He tells us, are going to have a place with the hypocrites, the ones who will give lip service to the Lord but will not live their faith.
Now we need to look at that ourselves and ask ourselves: To what degree are we giving in to the worldliness? To what degree are we giving in to the areas where we know that we should not – but it is a whole lot easier, so we can get along with others. After all, if we are really going to live our faith, people might think we are little odd, so therefore “let’s just go along to get along,” as they say. Who are you going along with? If it is not Jesus, it is either Satan or the world. Those are the only choices we have. And so those are the choices we have to make.
Saint Paul, then, when he is talking to the Thessalonians, prays for them so that they will have love for one another, that they will have their hearts strengthened to be blameless in holiness for God our Father. That is the Christian call, and anything less than that is less than what we are called to. So that, again, is what we need to look at as far as the standard by which we are going to try to judge ourselves. It is not acceptable to practice relativism: “Well, at least I’m doing better than that.” What standard are you judging by? If you are judging by the standards of what we see around us, it does not take a whole lot to be better than that. Jesus is not going to judge you on whether or not you were better than somebody else. The judgment is going to be on whether or not you were living what you knew to be the right thing, whether you were striving to be blameless and holy before the Lord. That is what we have to be about. It is very easy to fall into the relativism, so we need to make sure we are being vigilant.
Again, there is only way that is going to happen, and that is if we are praying, if we have that time every single day to pray and we are going deep into our hearts to try to seek the Will of God and be conformed to Jesus Christ. It is the only way. I do not think I can make that any more strong or any more clear. It is the only way. We want to try to justify ourselves and say, “I can do it this way or that way or another way.” No, we cannot. We must pray. Absolutely, positively, no questions asked, we must pray. And I am not talking about saying a prayer; I am talking about sitting down with the Lord for a period of time and going into your heart and praying in silence. That is the only possible way this can happen. If we want to call ourselves Catholic and not pray, we are hypocrites, pure and simple. And where were the hypocrites? They were thrown into a place where there was wailing and grinding of teeth.
So those are our choices. If we are going to give lip service to the Lord, we are hypocrites. If we are going to be holy and blameless before our God and Father, it means we have to be praying and striving for true holiness of life, to be like Jesus Christ. That is the only one we can be like, and that is what we have to be striving for. If we are going to be vigilant, if we are going to be a faithful servant of the Lord, Who is delayed in His coming, then that vigilance must be taking place in front of the Blessed Sacrament, deep in prayer to change our hearts, to change our lives, so that we truly are holy and blameless before our God and Father.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.