Friday September 16, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 6:2c-12) Gospel (St. Luke 8:1-3)
In the first reading today from Saint Paul’s Letter to Timothy, Saint Paul talks about two different things which cause us problems. One, he says, is this morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. He says that from that come all kinds of problematic things: envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicion, mutual friction, and so on. It is something that we do need to be very careful of because pride is all that it is. We want to be able to argue or we want to show ourselves better than someone or whatever it might be. And what comes from it? The only thing that tends to come from it is that we put other people down. We like to make sure that they know we are better than they are, we are smarter than they are, or whatever it might be. Certainly, we have to strive for the truth, so it is not a matter of not arguing in favor of the truth; but rather it is, as Saint Paul says, this morbid disposition toward it, people who will argue about anything just for the sake of arguing it. There is nothing to be gained.
Following that, Saint Paul talks about how we need to be content, and that if we have faith we should be content just to have enough. He goes on then to talk about how those who want to be rich are falling into a trap. The love of money is the root of all evil, he says. Now this is something we need to look at very, very carefully because in America, where money is abundant, the love of money is the root of all evil. We need to listen to those words and we need to listen to them very deeply: The love of money is the root of all evil. There are not many of us who can say that we have not been affected by it; we have been affected by it very deeply. We have to remember that what we consider poverty in this country would be wealth in other countries. And we need to be so careful not to be caught up in “I want this” and “I want that” and “I need more” and “I have to have” and all these things that we get caught up in.
Saint Paul reminds us that we brought nothing into this world and we are not going to take anything out of it. So it is not a question of “The one who dies with the most junk wins” because chances are that the one who dies with the most junk is probably going the wrong direction, if that is what they are really all about. We need to make sure, as he makes very clear, that our focus is on heaven. If we have faith then we are going to be content. So that is something we can look at. Are we content? It is not the money that is evil. Just look at the Gospel reading today. These women provided for Our Lord out of their means. They had money; that was not the problem. The problem is the love of money. These women were willing to take the means that God had provided for them and use that to help others. But what most people do is use what they have to help themselves. If they have a little bit left over then they are willing to give that away, but they make sure that they themselves have what they want first. Again, we see where it winds up being the love of the money and the love of the material things, ultimately the love of self.
If we are going to make sure that we are living according to our faith, then we need to set our focus on heaven. We need to look not so much at what we want, but what we really need. When it really comes down to it, there is not a whole lot that we really need. What we do need is prayer. What we do need is faith. What we do need is charity. Those are the things we have to be about. As Saint Paul tells Timothy, Man of God, avoid all of these things – avoid the love of money, avoid the desire to be rich, avoid the foolish argumentation and so on – instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith and lay hold of eternal life. That is what we have to be about. If we are going to be people of God, that has to be what defines our lives.
We have to keep always in mind the reality of what the Church teaches us, that work is there to support the family. Work is not there to be able to accumulate more riches; work is there to support the family. If we can keep our priorities right then we are going to be fine, but keep everything where it belongs. Your family comes first. That is your vocation. That is what God has called you to, so you work to support that. Work is not an end in itself. The money is certainly not the end in itself. But if we have things in proper perspective then we are going to have our focus on God. If our focus is set on God then our focus is going to come right down to our vocation. And if our focus is on our vocation then we will do what we need to do to be able to support that vocation, but everything will be in right order and in right perspective. That is what we have to keep in mind with these things. Make sure that we have our focus set right: away from all the things of the earth and firmly set on the things of heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.