Friday February 6, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 47:2-11) Gospel (St. Mark 6:14-29)
In the readings today, we hear about kingship from two different points of view. We hear about the kingship of David and the way that he conducted himself, and we hear about the kingship of Herod and the way that he has conducted himself. In both of these instances, we see two men who are very weak. We know about David and his problem with Bathsheba. We hear now about Herod and his own daughter and the lust that filled his heart as he looked at this young girl doing an erotic dance, and all of the things that that brought up with his promises and everything else.
But with David, there is an entire difference. David was repentant; not only of his sin, but above all, what David wanted more than anything was to be a priest. He wanted to serve God. He got caught up in his own weakness and took care of himself at times; and when he did, he repented of his sins. He certainly had to deal with the consequences of his own sins as well. But with each occasion that he fell, he got back up and turned to the Lord with repentance. Herod, on the other hand, showed absolutely no repentance for anything. Herod was caught up only in his own self and his own power. David, on the other hand, was caught up in the power of God.
What David wanted was to serve the Lord. He wrote songs, as we heard from Sirach, to be able to praise the Lord. He added solemnity to the feasts; He made things more beautiful in the worship. All of the things that would serve the Lord are what David wanted to do. Certainly, again, he had his own weaknesses; it is not that he was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But yet, because his heart was set on serving God, because he called upon the Name of the Most High, because he sought the strength of the Lord rather than his own strength, his sins were forgiven and he was given great promises by God as to what would happen for him and his posterity after him. We see in the situation with David very clearly what happens when one relies on God’s strength and when one relies on one’s own strength. When it is our own strength, we fall into sin. When it is God’s strength, we can do amazing things.
And so, each one of us needs to realize that we too have a share in the royal office. Each of us is priest, prophet, and king. We share in the kingship of Jesus Christ. We share in the authority of God in that way. Remember that the office of king is an office of service. Each one of us is called to this service – first and foremost to God – and, secondly, to those who are around us. There are two ways that we can do it, two ways that are laid out in the readings today. One, we can try to do it our own way. We can try to do things by our own strength. We can be self-serving and think how wonderful we are and what we can get away with, and we will be just like Herod; or we can even by like David when he fell because he tried to do it his own way with his own strength and he did not look to God. Or we can be like David when he was at his best and we can look to God. We can seek to serve Him, we can seek His strength, we can turn to Him in prayer, we can make sure that we are putting God first, and when we do that we will receive blessings similar to David. Our sins will be forgiven because out of human weakness we fall, but if our hearts are truly set on God and we are seeking Him, we can trust fully in His mercy. If we are seeking the Will of God, we will give glory and honor to Him. It is to seek that desire to live out all three of our offices: priest, prophet, and king.
Keep in mind that what David wanted was what he was not able to have, and he was accepting of that. That is, he wanted to be a priest. The same is true for most everybody here. There may be a desire in that generic sense to be able to serve God in a priestly manner, which each one of us is able to do through that office of priesthood. So we can use that kingship to serve with a desire to serve God as a priest. But not being able to serve precisely at the altar as a priest, each one of us certainly is able to serve God with the same kind of zeal, the same kind of love, the same kind of purity of heart, that we would want from the priests that do serve at the altar. Each one of us is able to offer ourselves in sacrifice to God and to bring our sacrifices to the altar, and in that way to add greater solemnity to the feasts that we already celebrate by bringing our hearts filled with love and our sacrifices to unite with the sacrifice of Christ.
So each one of us does have the same opportunity. We may not be earthly kings – and praise God! we are not because then we do not have to deal with all the stuff that comes with it – but we have the kingship of Jesus Christ, we have the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and we have the prophetic office of Christ which each one of us is able to express and to live in a fullness in service of the Lord if we make that choice. We have laid out before us two ways of doing it: our way or God’s way. One way is going to lead to pure selfishness, to using other people, and ultimately to eternal condemnation. The other way leads to the forgiveness of sin, to the glorification of God, and to eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.