February 10, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 1:1-19) Gospel (St. Mark 6:53-56)
As we begin in the first reading today with the Book of Genesis, there are several things that we can note. First of all, everything began as merely a formless waste. There was nothing; there was total chaos. According to the Hebrew way of thought, it was water; and the waters were a sign of chaos because in the ancient world they could not control the water. And when it is out of control, of course, it has greatly destructive powers so it was a symbol of chaos. There was a formless waste; there was absolute nothingness in that sense. God then decides that He is going to bring order out of the chaos. He begins then by creating first time and space and the first and second day, and then begins to fill that space with the dry land and the plants and so on.
We note also that there is a correlation as we go along. We can see it beginning today: the first day and the fourth day correlate; the second day and the fifth; and the third and the sixth. That is, on the first day He created the light and the darkness; on the fourth day He created the sun and the moon to be able to rule in the light and the darkness. You see these kinds of correlations, as we will go along, what filled the areas that He created.
We also see that there is a growth in perfection as He went along. He starts with the generic things and works toward the specific. He starts with the inanimate and works toward the animate. Even within each of those series of things, there is a growth of perfection within them as He goes from the dirt and the rocks and the dry land and the water to filling the waters with fish and the air with birds and then the plants and animals and then finally humanity. There is an order in the way that God is doing things, and He wants that order.
Now we need then to realize within ourselves that sin brings chaos back into the order that God created. We see that right from the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned. When we look around at the chaos that surrounds us in our society and our world today, that is the result of sin. The saints are very clear about that. All of the chaotic things that happen are simply nature’s way of responding to the chaos in the spiritual order that occurs every time we sin. We think of our own bodies. When we make an act of the will –in that spiritual faculty in the soul – that is expressed physically in and through the body. When that is expressed in the world in a spiritual way in sin, it too is going to find a physical expression and that takes place in the very chaotic things that happen even within nature. Those things are the result of human sin. If sin would stop, so would the chaos – the chaos in our own lives, the chaos within our world, all of these things would stop. But we are going to have to wait until God intervenes because sin is going to be allowed to run its course.
In the meantime, because of our sinfulness, there are also a variety of problems within us. We have the various sicknesses and ailments and difficulties and so on, not all merely because of our own sins, but God allows us to be able to take on some of the effects of other people’s sins so that we can do penance for them and offer all of that up. Some of it is due to our own sin. Some of it is due to the people we have offered to pray for, things like that.
Yet at the same time, we see in the Gospel reading today how the people would be brought to the Lord and as long as they touched His cloak, they were healed – even just the tassel on His cloak – because in that was the sign of the priestly people of Israel, the kingly people. And so if they touched that symbol of the priesthood, that royal priesthood of Jesus, they were healed. Order, again, is brought into the world. That is exactly what happens at the altar right here today and everyday. Jesus comes to be present; order is brought into the chaos of the world and it goes out from the altar. If we are willing to allow Him to touch our hearts, even if He does not heal us of the various ailments that are there for whatever reason He chooses, He will nonetheless bring order into our lives, into the chaos that is caused, whether by our own self or by those around us. He begins to bring order just as He did in creation. We recognize that when we receive Holy Communion, when we go to Confession: There is a new creation that happens and we are re-created. The chaos of our sinfulness is removed and order is restored. God re-creates every single time.
So creation is not something that merely happened thousands of years ago, creation continues to happen everyday and every moment of every day, and will continue in fact for all eternity as God keeps all of us mortal creatures in existence. But in the meantime, the miracles of creation continue in our own lives as God removes the chaos and brings order. We need to recognize that in the way that He wants us to move. And in our spiritual life, it is going to mirror what God did in physical creation: He wants us to go from the lesser to the greater, from the less perfect to the more perfect, from the less orderly to the more orderly until finally we grow in perfection, in holiness, and are united with God in that perfect order, that perfect holiness of soul in union with Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.