Wednesday February 4, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17) Gospel (St. Mark 6:1-6)
The passage that we heard in the Gospel reading today is a very, very important one because it gives us the names of these brothers and sisters of Our Lord, that is, James and Joseph and Judas and Simon. What is important about this is that further on in Saint Mark’s Gospel we have the same names come up and they are clearly not the sons of Mary. Saint Mark makes very clear to us that these people who are the brothers and sisters of the Lord are not His siblings, but rather they are His cousins. That makes perfect sense because in the Aramaic there is no word for “cousin” so they use the word “brother” to talk about any of their first cousins (second cousins too, for that matter). But what is important about this passage is that it is the only place in Scripture where we are actually given the names in two different places and we are given the names of the mothers (and clearly, of course, it is not Our Blessed Lady). So it is a very important passage for us to be able to keep in mind when it comes to people who want to suggest that Our Lady was not a perpetual virgin, that she had other children, or even the idea that Joseph may have had children from a previous marriage. These are not children of Joseph. Again, it is a very important passage for us to keep in mind for when people want to attack various elements of the Faith, to be able to show them in this passage from Mark 6:3 and the other one from Mark 15:40 where we have some of the same names with a different mother listed. It is very important for us to be able to have those passages in mind.
The other thing that is important about this is something that we have seen so many times: Jesus, going to His native place, is unable to work many miracles because of their lack of faith. It says, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” You see in the first reading also the lack of faith on David’s part. It was forbidden to have a census because the purpose of a census was to find out how many men you could get into the military. And God is basically reminding David and all the others that He is the king, He is in charge: “You simply need to trust; just have faith. You don’t need to go and count up all the men and see how big an army you can put together so that you can send them out in battle,” as God made clear when He sent out different people to battle; for instance, when He sent out Gideon and an army of only 300 people against the enemy. God is the One Who is in charge and it is not by manpower that one is going to win. In Maccabees, we see the exact same thing; there are just a handful of men against an entire army. That happened several times and it is the same point. So it is this lack of faith on David’s part.
Now, in David’s sin, we see that there is also a punishment and the punishment does not just befall David – it befalls the entire country. This does not seem fair. These people were completely innocent, and why should the innocent have to suffer with the guilty? It is because there is a corporate personality, and the king, who is in essence the head of that corporate personality, is the one who made the choice; and because the head made the choice, all the members of the body are also going to be affected. The same principle holds, of course, for us as members of the Mystical Body. That is, in the choices that Jesus made, all of us share the effects – thanks be to God! But when we look at a country, when we look at a family, there is a corporate personality; and when parents make a decision or when the head of a country makes a decision, it affects all the people underneath. So when a bad decision is made in a family, the children are going to suffer right along with the parents. When a good decision is made, the children are going to rejoice along with the parents. Either way, they are going to be affected by the decision that is made. So what we have to understand is that if we look at our country, for instance, the hideous decisions that have been made, one after the next after the next for the last who knows how many years – turning the country over to the Masons, deciding to kill babies, working through things like cloning and euthanasia and things like this – it is not just the top people in the country that are going to suffer for the stupid decisions that they have made, but the people are going to suffer along with them.
Our part is to pray, but so many do not. We just shrug our shoulders and we go along and say, “Well, it’s bigger than I am and it’s out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do about it.” On the natural level, that may be true. On the spiritual level, it is completely false. You are a member of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that is greater than Jesus Christ, and there is nothing that is more powerful than Jesus Christ. We need to take ourselves to prayer. We need to bring our concerns to prayer. We need to make sure that we are doing our part; otherwise, the Lord is going to look at us and He is going to be amazed at our lack of faith. And because of our lack of faith, He will be able to do very little – not because He does not have the power to do it, but because we will not allow it because we do not believe that He can do it in the first place, and we do not turn to Him to ask for anything in the second place because we do not believe that He is going to do it anyway. It all works together. As we see all the evil going on around us, we do have to realize that maybe we cannot take it on individually but we can take it on as a member of the Church, as members of Jesus Christ, and we can bring all of these things to prayer. We can put our faith into action by giving it all to the Lord and trusting in Him so that we will be able to amaze ourselves by the faith that we actually possess, by the faith that we actually practice – rather than having the tragedy of Our Lord being amazed at us for our lack of faith.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.