Tuesday September 3, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 2:10b-16) Gospel (St. Luke 4:31-37)
In the Gospel reading, we hear of Our Lord going into the synagogue and teaching. He taught with authority and the people recognized the authority and they asked, "What is this? He speaks with authority and even the demons listen." We see exactly in this what Saint Paul is talking about: the difference between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of Christ. He tells us that anyone who has merely the spirit of the world is not able to understand the Spirit of God because spiritual things have to be interpreted in spiritual ways - and the spirit of the world is anything but spiritual. And so the people were trying to figure out what it was that was different about Jesus. What was it about His word that had authority? How was it that His word was so different from that of the scribes and Pharisees? They did not understand because, sadly, they were imbued with the spirit of the world.
But Saint Paul also makes very clear to each of us that we have the Spirit of Christ. It is not the spirit of the world that we have been given but the Spirit of Christ Himself. He goes so far as to say that we can interpret the spiritual things because "we have the mind of Christ." Talk about astonishing! We have the mind of Christ. All Saint Paul is really doing is taking the truth that he understood - that we are baptized into Christ, we are members of Christ, we share the life of Christ - and that being the case, what naturally follows from that? That we have the mind of Christ, that we have the Spirit of Christ.
Now we need to recognize that dignity because it also means, as Saint Paul tells us, that we speak about spiritual things in spiritual terms and we can understand spiritual things because we have the mind of God, because we have the Spirit of God. It is really there for each one of us. The question is, do we even recognize that it is there? We are so accustomed to the spirit of the world that we do not know, oftentimes, how to operate in the Spirit of God, or we are afraid to because it is different from the spirit of the world. But if we just step back for a moment and ask ourselves objectively, if we had the choice which would we choose: the Spirit of God or the spirit of the world? Which would we like to operate out of? Which way would we like to think? How would we want to understand things? If you have the higher, the lower is already part of it. In other words, if you have the spirit of the world, you cannot understand spiritual things; but if you have the Spirit of God, you can understand the things of the world because the Spirit of God is higher. So it is not like you are going to lose anything - other than sin - if you are going to have the Spirit of God and operate from that. But if you are operating merely from the spirit of the world, you cannot understand the spiritual things and you cannot operate on that higher level.
Saint Paul is making clear that each one of us, being a member of Jesus Christ, has the Spirit of Christ and we have the mind of Christ. We do not have to act like those who are worldly. We have the choice, and we have everything right there already. The choice is ours. We can have that same Spirit of which the people were so astonished with Jesus and wondered what was so different about His word that He spoke with authority. That same thing is within us. We can understand the things of God if we are willing to take them to prayer. We can operate on a spiritual level if we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. We can also block the Holy Spirit because God will not force Himself on us. If we want to be worldly, God will allow us to do what we want. So we have the choice. But we have the Spirit of God and we have the mind of Christ. We need to open ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to operate, to be able to accept what God has already given us and be confident in that, and reject the spirit of the world so that we can operate as the spiritual children that we truly are.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.