Friday October 26, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 7:18-25a) Gospel (St. Luke 12:54-59)
Saint Paul tells us there are two different laws that are at work within us. There is the law of God, which we adhere to with our will and we say, "This is what I believe and this is what I want to do. It is what is right; it is what is just." Then he talks about the law of sin that is at work within our bodies. He talks about the weakness and the little mystery that we have certainly all experienced, that is, "I do not always do what I will to do. I want to do what is good; I want to do what is right; and then I fall. I do the evil that I do not intend to do." When we look at that, we see the battle within us. In his Letter to the Galatians, he talks about the flesh and the spirit, and how they are at odds with one another: The spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit.
But the Lord also talks about this, slightly, in the Gospel reading today. He tells us that if we see the clouds rising in the west, we can say that there is rain coming. If we see that there is a wind blowing from the south, we say it is going to be hot. We need to learn to do the exact same thing with those various passions that arise within the body: to be able to say, "If I feel these passions beginning to grow, I need to recognize them." We have certainly felt them for enough years to be able to know what is going to happen if we allow the passions to run. We know where we are going to get into trouble; we know our own weakness, as well.
Whatever the particular weakness is that each one of us deals with, we know where that weakness is. And we know it begins with just a little hint of what the problem might be, the little tiny temptation that gets thrown in there. Then we start to follow that, little by little, and it starts to grow. Now, we could blame it on the weakness of the flesh and say, "See, I have no power over this." But if we would catch it right at the very beginning, we can cut that off. We can begin to pray; we can begin to get ourselves involved in some other activity to be able to ride this thing out.
That is the point the Lord would be making for us. First of all, He is talking about being able to interpret the signs of the times, to look around and see, in general, what is going on. But we need to do that even within ourselves. If we can interpret the external things, why do we have so much trouble interpreting what goes on in the body? When we truly will to do what is right and what is just, then part of that is to watch what goes on within and to catch even the very beginning movements of any kind of illicit passion and to cut it off immediately - not to entertain it. That is where we get ourselves in trouble. The devil will say, "Just a little bit isn't going to hurt you, is it? I mean, after all, just don't do something that is mortally sinful, but a little pleasure is a good thing." And then we know that, because it is the area of weakness, if we give it even just a little tiny bit, then we have lost control of it and it's off to the races. So while it is not a problem that one might have a little bit of enjoyment, when it is something that we know is our area of weakness and we know it is going to lead us right into sin, a little bit is not good and we need to cut that off immediately, nip it in the bud.
If we can interpret the external signs, the large signs in the world, we need to learn to interpret the little things that go on within ourselves. Watch for those beginning movements of passion. Watch for the way that sin begins within our lives. Learn the pattern and cut it off immediately. Then we will be cooperating with the law of God, the law of justice that is at work within our will, and in that way we will be able to do the good that we truly desire to do.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.