Monday February 24, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 1:1-10) Gospel (St. Mark 9:14-29)
In the first reading today, we hear all about wisdom. Sirach, the wise man of the Old Testament, speaks about wisdom being from the very beginning before time began and he says that God created wisdom. Even that is not quite the way that it is because Saint Paul makes very clear that Jesus is the Wisdom of God and He is not created. But it was the way they were able to understand how this wisdom came to be. It is with the Holy Spirit that God is wisdom, and so we see even there a little foreshadowing of the Trinity: the Father along with the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom who is the word of God, as Sirach says and Jesus is the Word. This wisdom, he tells us, is in all of His works and in every living being and He has bestowed it upon His friends. And so it is in wisdom that God made each and every one of us and He has bestowed upon us a share of His wisdom. As we grow in holiness, that wisdom becomes more and more profound. It is not that it is not there already; it is simply that because of sin, Original Sin as well as actual sin within us, we are unable to grasp it, we are unable to recognize the wisdom of God even though it is there. The more purified the mind becomes and the more purified the will becomes, the more we are able to unite ourselves with that wisdom and the more profound the wisdom becomes within us.
It is this kind of wisdom that Our Lord is using as He tells us in the Gospel reading what needs to happen in order to deal with certain things. This evil spirit, for instance, which His disciples were not able to cast out, they were wondering why and the Lord said, It is only through prayer that this kind of spirit can be cast out. That does not mean praying and asking the Lord to cast it out; it means that one has to be deeply rooted in prayer in order to be able to do this because it is through the power of God that it is going to be done. We have this odd idea that just because we have Jesus Christ that we have all the power. We do if we truly have the Lord, but again, depending on the level of holiness that we have achieved, we have the Lord in a greater or lesser amount. Not that He is any greater or lesser, but it is a matter of how much we have opened our hearts to allow Him to take over our lives. And so the more deeply rooted one is in prayer, the more power, the more authority one has. Not in any kind of selfish way, but rather in a manner in which one places that at the service of others. And so it is really wisdom in charity, the power of God at work in love. That is what we are supposed to be about. That is the Wisdom of God at work within us. It is not about us; it is about Him, and it is about allowing Him to work through us for the good of others. That is what the Lord desires for all of us: that wisdom will be profound within us, that it will be working in us, and that wisdom will lead us to greater union with Himself. So when Our Lord makes very clear to us that this must be done with prayer, He is calling us, then, telling us what we need to do if we want to have this kind of ability. Not the ability merely to cast out demons, but rather the ability to be united with Jesus, to have the authority that Our Lord Himself has. And that is only through prayer.
Now we recognize (I suspect most of us) that we are not there, and rather than being upset or despairing, we need to look at what the Lord said to the father: All things are possible for those who have faith. And this mans wonderful response must be the response in the heart and on the lips of each of us: I do believe, help my unbelief! The Lord has planted that faith there already. We need to put it into practice. We need to make a leap of faith that God is going to do what He said that He would do. Most of us just do not trust Him enough to think that will really happen for us. And so we need to embrace that faith, we need to put it into practice, and we need to do it in a profound way: to go to prayer, to act on faith, and to unite ourselves with wisdom. In that way, all things will be possible to us. Not because we have any extraordinary power of our own or because we are interested in showing off or because it is about ourselves because it will not be; the Wisdom of God will remove us from the picture and He will be able to operate in us and through us to be able to do profound works for the glory of God and for the love of neighbor.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.