Monday October 27, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 8:12-17) Gospel (St. Luke 13:10-17)
Saint Paul, continuing in his Letter to the Romans, tells us that we are not debtors to the flesh so that we should live by the flesh – even though the body thinks we ought to be that way and it lets us know that all too frequently; at the same time, he tells us if we live according to the flesh we will die, but if we live according to the spirit we will live. Now when we look at the Gospel reading, we can see that here is a woman who is all stooped over because of a spirit, that Satan had held her bound for eighteen years and she was in this infirmity in her body. And we can see from an example like this exactly what is happening to the soul.
For most of us, what the devil does will not necessarily have a lot of impact on the body; sometimes it does. In fact, it is amazing what we get used to and chalk up to being something natural when oftentimes it is something spiritual. The devil is very powerful and if we give ourselves over to Satan he has a legal right to do things to us because we have handed it over to him. And so when we look at what happens when we give in to the desires of the flesh and Saint Paul tells us that if we live according to the flesh we will die, that is why. When we give ourselves over to the sinful desires of the flesh, we are literally handing ourselves over in that area to Satan himself. We are, in essence, consecrating ourselves to the devil and telling him that he now has a right. We really belong to Jesus through Baptism but this part of our lives we do not want to give to Jesus, so we are saying, “You, Satan, can have a right over this part of my life.” That is why it becomes so very difficult for us to overcome these problems with which we suffer.
But Saint Paul then goes on to make very clear that if we live according to the spirit we will have life. This woman comes to Jesus so that she can be freed of this infirmity, and it is not merely the infirmity, as is made very clear twice in the Gospel reading today: Saint Luke tells us she had been troubled by a spirit that made her bend over, and it is Jesus Himself Who said that she had been in the bondage of Satan for eighteen years. He did not say, “This is merely a physical illness and we will heal her illness.” He made very clear that she was in bondage to Satan. This was something that she had done or something that was done by someone who had some kind of legal right over her and there was some willfulness involved in it. That is what happens to us.
But then we look at the flip side of it and we say, “But if we can throw off the shackles of death, if we can die to the flesh so that we live in the spirit then Saint Paul tells us what follows from that.” He says that we have received a spirit of adoption by which we call out “Abba, Father!” and he tells us that we are children of God and we are heirs – heirs of God and heirs with Christ – if only we suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him. That suffering is having to kill the desires of the flesh, having to throw off Satan who was there to tell us that we do not really want to do this. And we all know all too often how much we listen to the devil. We make the decision that we are not going to do this anymore and about an hour or two later the devil is right there saying, “That’s a dumb idea. You’re going to have to suffer for this and you don’t really want to do that, do you? You don’t really want to give this up, do you??” And then, of course, we say, “No, I…I guess I really don’t,” and we give in.
So the suffering that we have to endure is throwing off Satan; it is dying to the desires of the flesh – the wrongful desires of the flesh, that is – and putting to death that within us which is not of Christ. But then look at what we gain from that: We are coheirs with Christ and God Himself is our inheritance, Saint Paul says. Heirs of God and coheirs with Christ! We are truly children of God. We already are because of our baptism, but now we have to live as children of God. We have to stop living as children of the devil, giving in to sinful desires, and we have to live as children of God according to the spirit, not according to the flesh.
And so we need to pray and we need to ask God to teach us this. We all know all too well how to live according to the wrongful desires of the flesh; the devil is all too happy to push his agenda. God, on the other hand, will wait for us to come to Him, and we have to make a choice to do that. So we need to exercise the spirit that we are in Christ and seek the Lord, seek His Will, and grow in the spirit so that we truly live as children of God according to the spirit, to suffer with Christ in this life so that we can be glorified with Him in the next.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.