May 20, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time
Reading I (James 3:13-18) Gospel (St. Mark 9:14-29)
St. James, in the first reading today, tells us about wisdom. We know that wisdom is something that we need to pray for, that we need to try to practice. Wisdom comes, as we know, also from experience. There is a worldly kind of wisdom. There are experiences that we have and we gain wisdom. Some people are just by nature very intelligent and they have a lot of natural intellectual ability, and yet, often times they like to let other people know that they have that kind of ability. They like to show it off, they like to brag about it, they like to get into problems. St. James tells us something that is very important, he says, “Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Now those are pretty strong words, to call it demonic. We have to understand, if there is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, he says, that is not from God. That is coming straight out of the depths of the netherworld.
We can look at ourselves and ask with the wisdom that we do have, are we finding ourselves struggling with jealousy and ambition or are we instead dealing with wisdom from above, which he says is “…pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity?” That is what we need to really look at in ourselves. Which kind of wisdom do we possess? Do we find that we are struggling and at strife with people, and just even within ourselves, wanting to be ambitious and jealous of what others have, or of their intelligence, or of their wisdom, or their gifts, or do we find ourselves simply to be at peace? Are we at peace with what the Lord has given to each one of us? Do we find ourselves sincere and constant? Do we find the kind of wisdom we have just to be pure? That is seeking the Lord, not jealous of anybody else. These are not easy things for us to look at. But when we hear St. James tell us that the first type is unspiritual and demonic, that should tell us clearly enough that we need to look very, very seriously at this and ask ourselves if that is what we are struggling with, or if what we have is coming from God.
We cannot take this lightly. Our Lord, in the Gospel, comes and finds His disciples arguing with people. Once again, we see that there is arguing and jealousy and so on. He finds out that it is because they could not cast out a demon when they ask Him why couldn’t they do it. He said that this kind can only be cast out through prayer. They had a certain wisdom. They had been with Jesus long enough, they had learned a lot, and they were proud of it. And they could not do anything because there was not the humility and there was not the prayer. If that is the kind of wisdom that we have, the knowledge and the wisdom and the earthly ability, it will get us nowhere. We might step on people along the way and we might get important positions or important titles, but it will bring us right to where it came from, and that is with Satan.
If, on the other hand, we find that the wisdom we have is put at the service of others, is peaceable, is seeking the will of God, is rooted in prayer, that is when we can be at peace, and we will be. That is the kind of wisdom we need to strive for and that can only come out of prayer, out of the experience of the Lord and out of deep union with Jesus Christ. It is that kind of wisdom for which we must pray. That is what Our Lord is instructing us, and it is what St. James is telling us in the first reading, to strive for that understanding, that knowledge, that wisdom. We are to pray for that, not to seek it in a worldly way, but only in the divine manner.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.