What Will It Take to Change Our Lives?
Friday December 9, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 48:17-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:16-19)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear Our Lord tell us that He teaches us what is for our good and He leads us on the way that we should go, and if we would hearken to His commandments, then, He says, our prosperity would be like a river and our vindication like the waves of the sea. Now then we have to ask ourselves: What exactly is it that He is asking of us? He has laid out for us exactly the way that He wants us to live. He has not only given us His Ten Commandments, but He has taught us (especially through Our Lord) exactly what He wants of us. But the problem is that most of us do not want it. The Lord says we are like children in the marketplace who say, We piped you a tune, but you didn’t dance; we sang you a dirge, but you didn’t wail. We have to ask ourselves: What is it that we really want? The Lord has presented for us in a variety of ways, through the saints over the years, through the teaching of the Church, through His own example, through His own mother, everything that we are supposed to be about. But most of us refuse to follow the example. We do not want to pray, we do not want to change our lives, we do not want to be saints, we do not even really want to be very holy–because we do not want to be different.
All we can continually say is that if we want to be like the people who want to be worldly, we are going straight down. Why would we want to be like that? Because everyone else is, is the only reason that we can give. So what? The question is: Who are we going to follow? The Lord has told us very clearly what we have to be about. We are saying that we want to be His followers, but our actions demonstrate something entirely different. It is just like the people of old. Jesus says, John the Baptist came, and you said he was possessed by a demon. “He is crazy! This guy’s out in the desert with a camel hair outfit and he’s eating grasshoppers. He’s nuts!” So Jesus comes along, and then they have excuses for Him. They said He was possessed. They said He was crazy. He says, They are calling Me a glutton and a drunkard. It is any excuse in the world to not listen and to not act. That is what we have, and that is what we do as human beings.
If Jesus Himself were right here in front of us today (other than as He is in the Eucharist), if He were standing here physically in front of us today and He was preaching at us, you know what we would do? We would come up with an excuse as to why we did not have to listen to what He said. We would walk away and say, “Wow! That was really nice. He’s a great speaker!” And we would ignore everything He said. Or we would walk away and say, “That guy just doesn’t get it. He’s crazy. He doesn’t want me living like the rest of these people. He wants me to throw my TV set away! He wants me to quit living like a pagan! He wants me to stop sinning! He wants me to change my life! He’s nuts!”
So what will we do? Nothing. We refuse to change because we do not want the inconvenience. And so we need to really look seriously at this. How many saints do we need? We have God Himself, Who told us how to live. We celebrate the ones who have done things the right way. We hold them up; we teach them to our children. We read the stories to our kids about being a saint, and then you know what we do? We tell our kids as they get older: “Don’t be like that.” Why? Because what is most important is how much money you make. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, The only ones who are a failure in this life are the ones who fail to get to heaven, and the only ones who are a success in this life are the ones who get to heaven. So it is not about what kind of job you have. It is not about how much money you make. It is about how you live your life. If you are making ten million dollars a year and you are a saint, then praise God. And if you are making ten thousand dollars a year and you are a saint, praise God. But if you are making ten thousand dollars a year and you are a wretch, then you are going the wrong direction.
None of the worldly things matter. None of the external things matter. What matters is what is in our hearts and how we live our lives. That is what God is looking for. So we need to look at our own excuses, our rationalizations, all of the reasons why we refuse to change our lives to do it God’s way, and ask ourselves: What will it take? We piped you a tune, but you wouldn’t dance; we sang you a dirge, but you wouldn’t wail. What will it take to change our lives to be like Jesus?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.