Sunday Sermon for October 29, 2023, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40

In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians how news of their conversion had spread to other places.  What is most important is that more people knew the Thessalonians had turned away from idols to serve the one true God and to await the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  St. Paul also reminds the Thessalonians that they had received the truth of the Gospel with joy even in the midst of great afflictions.

If we are going to receive the Word of God, it is not enough to hear the truth; we must also put the truth into practice.  There are many ways we can speak about how to live the truth, but our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that the entire Law and the Prophets can be summarized in two points: love God and love neighbor.  As we know, this does not mean to have gushy feelings about God and neighbor; it means to do what is truly best for the other.

In a practical sense, we can see the love of neighbor by looking at the first reading.  God tells the people of Israel that they are not to oppress or molest an alien, they are not to wrong widows and orphans, and they are not to mistreat the poor.  In a society like ours, where the government gives money and goods to those in need, our Christian sense of caring for the poor and treating them with dignity has in many ways been lost.  Love of neighbor has become little more than being kind to people, and even this is quickly eroding.

Love of God is summarized for us in a single line from the second reading where St. Paul speaks about the Thessalonians turning from idols “to serve the living and true God.”  In other words, love of God is not merely about having faith in the existence of God, or in the Trinity, or in the humanity and divinity of Jesus.  Rather, these points of faith form a foundation which helps us to act in accord with what we believe. 

This becomes a critical point for us because although many people say they believe in God, they have chosen not to act on their belief.  This has led to a situation where people do whatever they want, no matter how immoral it may be.  It is good that they still believe in God, but if they have chosen not to act on that belief, they have chosen not to serve the living and true God.  As a reminder, Satan does the exact same thing: Satan knows God is real, but he will not serve.

All of these considerations are of paramount importance for us today because we are witnessing a real apostasy as people walk away from God and the Church and are turning, instead, to idols.  For years I have been amazed to see the devotion with which the followers of Satan serve their master.  Many times I have remarked that if we served our Master half as well as these unfortunate souls serve their master, the world would have been converted to the Lord long ago.  But instead of serving the Lord, many people have settled for giving Him lip service while keeping their hearts to serve something else.

The way our society operates leads to some of these problems.  Since we live in a time when people expect immediate gratification, the Gospel message about a reward after this life does not carry much interest.  Of course, the vile creature is more than happy to provide whatever our selfishness seeks, but there is a cost down the road that these people ignore because they are only focused on the immediate. 

The people of Israel ran into this same problem.  They did not want to serve God because He did not always give them what they wanted.  They knew if they did things God’s way, some aspects of their lives would be more difficult.  So, if you are faced with a choice of ease and pleasure on one side and difficulty and affliction on the other, which would you choose?  Satan offers what you want in the present with the payment in the future.  God offers what we need in the present, which constitutes “payment” for what we will gain in the future. 

Too many of us fail to look ahead and, instead of rejoicing in the living out of our faith, we rejoice, instead, in living in a selfish and immoral way.  Walking away from God to serve an idol, whatever it may be, results in selfishness and a deeper place in hell for eternity.  Walking away from idols to serve the living and true God results in charity and a higher place in heaven for eternity.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit