Wednesday February 6, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17) Gospel (St. Mark 6:1-6)
In the readings today, there are two things that we want to look at. First of all is the effect of sin. We can see it, for instance, in the Gospel reading: Jesus goes into His own native place of Nazareth, and He cannot work many miracles there (except to cure a couple of people who were sick) because of the lack of faith of the people; their sins have consequences. But we see it even more clearly in the first reading with David. David has the people numbered; he took a census of the people, something that was forbidden by God because the reason for taking a census was to find out how many soldiers he would have and not trust the Lord but trust in the arms that they would have. And so, it was forbidden. But David did it anyway. Even though he had been warned by Joab not to do that, he refused to listen and required it to be done.
Then we see, in the first reading, David praying to God for forgiveness. God forgives the sin, but there are still the effects of the sin. So the Lord says, "There is going to be a punishment." And He gave David an opportunity to choose what the punishment would be, something He does not do for most of us. Anyway that they cut it, it was not going to be a pleasant thing. Then David says - and remember always his words: "It is better to fall by the hand of God than by men because God is most merciful." Something we always need to keep in mind is the mercy of God, no matter how difficult things become. But always remember that our sins have consequences.
And that is critically important when you look at the other point that is there in the reading. That is, as David prays, "Lord, this is my sin not theirs." He prays that the calamity would befall him and his household. But for those who are parents, it is important to be able to see the effects that sin will have upon your family. And for those of us who are priests, it is critically important that we see the effect of our sins on the people of God. David is the King of Israel; he is leading the people; they are following where he is going, and he led them out into the desert. The same thing will happen with priests and bishops if they are not following the Lord. The effect of their sin is going to lead the people astray. Now, on one level, you could say, "That doesn't seem fair. Why should the priest's sin affect me that way?" But it does because if you are following where the shepherd is leading you and he is leading you on the wrong path, you are going to follow the wrong path.
So it is important - imperative, in fact - that you pray for the priests, that you pray for the bishops so that they will stay on the right track, so that they are not going to lead you astray. Above all, of course, follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and make sure that if you are following somebody who is not following the Lord that you get off of that path and on to the one with the Lord. But make sure that you are praying for those who are in charge of the Church so that they do not lead us the wrong way. Then apply that same thing to the family. Make sure that you are praying for yourselves; make sure you have your children praying for you so that you make the right decisions, so that in your family you do not lead people astray. The same principle holds either way. We see, then, the effect of the sin - not only on our own selves but on others. And so, we need to pray for one another that we all will seek to follow the Will of God and stay on the right path.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.