Wednesday September 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 3:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 6:20-26)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells us that we have died and that our life is hidden now with Christ in God. This death is the death we have endured already in baptism. It is a spiritual death, and we have entered into the waters of death so that we could rise with Christ. He is just continuing with what we heard yesterday, and we realize, as he says very explicitly today: Therefore, set your eyes on heaven, not on earth; seek what is above, not what is of the earth. Then he lays out for us the things that are of earth, and he tells us that we have to get rid of them. He says, Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed which is idolatry.
For many who perhaps have lived an unfortunate past, that, I assume, is put aside. You are trying to live according to the way of Christ. But if the physical things are gone (the impurity is out of the way), the thing that you have to be so careful of is to not try to replace it with something else. Most often, it is greed and materialism. It is still doing the same thing, trying to fill up something, trying to look for some kind of consolation or pleasure, trying to seek something that is not God. How careful we need to be with that.
Then he goes on talking about what we need to do. He says that we need to put all of this away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths, lying, and so on. We have to put on a new self. Again, how often we try to justify ourselves, suggesting that it is okay that we can be angry, suggesting that it is okay that we can be saying things we should not say. We cannot; there is no excuse. Certainly, there may be problems because of a habit that has formed, but even that does not serve as an excuse to say, “It was okay for me to do.” What we need to be doing is working on these things to get rid of them. Yes, in our weakness we are going to fall, but as long as we are working at trying to overcome these things and not working on simply finding some excuse to justify what it is we are doing.
Now, of course, if we are going to put off the old self and put on the new self, to die to the things that are earthly to live for the things that are heavenly, we know exactly how people are going to react. But then again listen to the words that Our Lord spoke in the Gospel reading today. He said, Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and insult you and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. On the other hand, He says, Woe to you when all speak well of you; their ancestors treated the false prophets in exactly that way. If we are going to live according to the ways of God, we cannot live according to the ways of the world. And if we want to be accepted by the worldly, if we want to fit in, if we want to be thought well of, if we want all the accolades that the world has to offer, then we are not living according to the way of God. If that is the case, again, listen to the words of the Lord: Woe to you when all speak well of you. Woe to you. This is not some little thing that the Lord said, “Well, you know, it’s no big deal.” Woe to you. Then, again, if we are going to live the way of Christ and be rejected and insulted with Him, He pronounces us blessed.
This does not mean go out and be obnoxious so that people can hate you. That is not the idea. Just live the life. Live the spiritual life, practice the charity that we are called to practice, go out and live the life of Christ and you will be rejected simply for doing what is right. But then we have to rise above the hatred and the anger and the frustration that people have done that to us. What the Lord is asking of us is not easy, and yet Saint Paul tells us that this is what is necessary because we have already died with Christ and now we are to live with Him, and that this is necessary because of who we are, the very essence of our being as Christian people, to be able to walk with Christ, to walk as He did, to live as He did, to be united with Him. That is what we have to be about, putting aside everything that is not of God and living according to the ways of God and to quit giving ourselves excuses as to why we do not have to do it that way – because the Lord makes very clear that is exactly what we have to do – and to truly live a holy life with our hearts set not on the things of earth but on the things of heaven where Christ is already seated at the right hand of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.