Wednesday September 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle
Reading (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians that we are to live in a manner worthy of the call that we have received, and then goes on to lay out some of the virtues that we have to practice: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another through love, and striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.
Now we have to look at this from a couple of points. First of all, if this is the call that we have received, then we listen to what Our Lord said in the Gospel: I came to call sinners, not the righteous. So we first must understand that to practice these virtues is not going to be a simple thing for us because we are all a bunch of sinners. If we were the righteous ones, He would not have come to call us because we would have thought that we did not need Him. But when we are completely weak and completely sinful then we recognize that we have a necessity to rely on Him. We need Him and we can do nothing without Him.
He called us because we were sinners. That is the first point we have to understand because many of us will look at things and say, “Well, I’m not worthy. How could He have called me? I’m so rotten, it couldn’t happen.” No, that is why He called you. That is what we need to understand: that is why He called you. If you were not so rotten and sinful, He would not have called you. In that case, we need to rejoice in how weak we are because otherwise we would not be here; we would be out doing our own thing someplace. Instead, we recognize that we are in desperate need of Our Lord. Thanks be to God! He called a tax collector. He called people whom it did not seem to make much sense as to why He would call them. And He has not changed because He cannot. God does not change. So look around and you will see a whole bunch of people whom it does not make any sense that God called them – starting with looking in the mirror. Do not try to make sense of it other than to say, “I’m a sinner and that’s why He called me, because He wanted to save me from myself.” That is where we have to begin.
Once we recognize the call and the necessity to strive for virtue, as Saint Paul lays out, then he tells us that within this call each of us has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Now that does not mean that we are to compare ourselves to one another and say, “Oh, you got a better gift than I did. I got ripped off.” All we are doing is demonstrating once again that we are pretty rotten sinners if we do that, and we are not demonstrating much virtue. What we have to be able to do is simply look at Christ and ask Him, “What is it that You want from me?” Not look at everyone else and size everything up and see if you can compete and do better than the rest and who has the better gift and all, because the gift God has given to each one of us corresponds to the personality that He gave us and it corresponds to the call that He has given to each one of us.
As we look through history, we some of the great saints who have done extraordinary things, but we see the ordinary saints who have lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary Christian way. That is what the vast majority of people will be called to. And that is not something we should look at and say, “Well, that’s too bad,” or, “Isn’t it sad that these people weren’t called to something greater?” What could be greater than being called to raise a family, to form the consciences of the children of tomorrow?
You see, when we look at some of these things and think that we have been treated in a way that is less than what somebody else was treated, or that our call is not as good as somebody else’s, that is completely wrong. The call that God has given to each of us corresponds perfectly with His Divine Will. So what we really need to ask ourselves is: Are we going to be so arrogant as to suggest that God made a mistake? His Will is perfect, and His Will for each one of us is to live according to the call He has given us. And the call He has given to each one of us is absolutely perfect according to who He created each one of us to be. So we first have to accept the reality of our own self, that is, to accept the fact that we are weak and sinful, but to accept the fact that we have been treated with such extraordinary dignity as to be called by Christ and given grace by Christ to be able to do His work, then to accept what that call is and to live it. It is just that simple. It does not have to be any more complicated than that: to accept it, to be obedient, and to be grateful.
That is what the Lord is asking of us. It is to know who we are, it is to know Who He is, and to be able to discern what He is asking of us, and then through the virtues that we are called to develop to live according to the call that He has given to each one of us. And it is all for one purpose: for the glory of God and to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. In that way, it is also to make each one of us a saint.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.