Tuesday September 20, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20) Gospel (St. Luke 8:19-21)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that His mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and act upon it. Now, obviously, His own mother heard the Word of God and acted upon it in a more perfect way than any of the rest of us ever will, in fact, more perfectly than all of humanity combined. So this is certainly not any kind of slap against His own mother, but rather it is to say something about the rest of us, that our relationship with Christ is dependent upon hearing the Word of God and acting upon the Word of God.
That, of course, is the struggle. It seems like a pretty easy and straightforward point, but if we were really honest with ourselves, we would have to ask the simple question: Am I really, truly living according to the Word of God? according to the Word of God as it is put down in writing in Sacred Scripture? according to the Word of God Who gives us the example of what it is to live a human life, that is, the Second Person of the Trinity – Jesus Christ, the Word of God Who became flesh? We have all the examples right in front of us of how we are to live our lives, yet most of us do not. It is not that we are unable to do so; it is most often that we do not want to, either because it makes us different from everyone else and we do not want to be different from everyone else (because we want to be just like everyone else) or because we are attached to sin and we do not want to give it up, we simply do not want to change.
What we can do is just simply ask ourselves: What would we do if we were in the situation that we hear in the first reading? These people had been in exile. They had not been able to practice their faith, that is, they had not been able to go to the temple, they had not been able to offer sacrifice, and now they are sent back and asked to rebuild the temple. Finally, after all the time of rebuilding the temple, they have gotten to the point where they can actually have sacrifice offered for the first time. What would we do and how much does it really mean to us to be able to get to Mass? What would we do if we were not able to? Not because we could not get into the car and drive to the church, but because there was not a church and there was not a priest to offer sacrifice.
This happened before. I think very often of Pope John Paul’s book when he explains what happened in his own hometown. The Nazis had come in and destroyed everything and killed most of the priests. The few priests who remained went underground. Every Sunday, he said, the people would gather in church; one of the townspeople had the key. The people would gather in the church but there was no priest and there was no Mass. Somebody would take out the priestly vestments and lay them on the altar. His only comment was that the sound of weeping could be heard in the church. We need to think about this.
It is not merely a matter of whether we can get to Mass; it is a matter of how much our faith means to us because more than just coming to Mass – which, tragically, we can just kind of go through perfunctory motions if we want to and not really put our heart into it and not really pray and not really allow the Lord to touch us and change us – it means that we have to live it. We have to take what happens at Mass and bring it out into the world and bring it into our daily lives and truly live what it is that we celebrate here. We receive the Word of God in Holy Communion. Do we live what we receive when we walk out of the church? That is what Our Lord is asking of us, to hear the Word of God and to keep it, to read it in Scripture, to hear Him speaking in the depths of our hearts in prayer, to receive Him and be united with Him in Holy Communion, and then to go out and put it into practice. What it is that we have seen and heard and received we now have to live. If we really think about what it would be like to not have the Mass and how desperately we would want to be able to be one with the Lord in the Eucharist, we have to then take that to the next step and say, “For now when we do have Mass, when we can receive Our Lord without any difficulty, am I taking it for granted? Am I just going through the motions? Or is this really the most important thing in my life, so important that my life is going to revolve around this mystery so that I am not only receiving Our Lord everyday but I am living what it is that I receive, so that I am putting into practice what I profess?” That is what we have to look at because only when we hear the Word of God and we act upon it can we be considered the mother and the brothers to Our Blessed Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.