Friday February 13, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19) Gospel (St. Mark 7:31-37)
In the first reading today, we hear about the kingdom of Israel being torn apart, that there were twelve tribes of Israel and now they were going to be broken up once again. The reason for that was because of the sin of Solomon; in this case, the worshiping of the false gods, setting up all of these altars and high places to these false gods, sacrificing to them, and so on. It is ultimately because of sin that there is this splitting up, that there is this dichotomy.
When we look today at Christianity, we see the exact same problem. There was the initial break from the Church, and since then there have been thousands more. There are, according to Protestant counts, 25,000 different denominations; according to others, 40,000; and according to others, even 100,000. Regardless, it is a scandal. There is only one explanation for it, and it is sin; it is the pride of certain individuals. It is all about sin, refusing to do what God wanted and therefore, as it said in the psalm: “I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts and I let them follow their own counsels” because they refused to follow what God’s counsels were. Until people begin to be obedient to what God is asking, it is not going to be any different.
There is a fascinating movement right now of all these Protestant ministers becoming Catholic. The reason why this is happening is because they are seeking the truth. And as they become Catholic, they are bringing many of their people with them. Every year, in America alone, we are talking about hundreds of Protestant ministers; not just Protestant people, these are the ministers who are becoming Catholic. They are bringing many people with them and they are seeking the truth. They are purifying things within because the very truths that the Catholics themselves are refusing to acknowledge and be obedient to, these people (who were former Evangelicals or Protestants of a variety of different stripes) are being obedient to because they are recognizing that this is the teaching of Jesus Christ and this is the Will of God.
What we see happening, in essence, is the same thing as we saw in the Gospel. However He chooses to do it, Jesus is touching the hearts of these people. The man in the Gospel was deaf and had a speech impediment, and Jesus healed him of that. We see that this is exactly what is happening to the hearts of these people, who in many cases had been vehemently anti-Catholic. Now they are becoming fervent Catholics. The Lord is healing them. The spiritual deafness that they had to hear the truth has been removed. The speech impediment they had where they spoke part truth and part that was not has now been removed so that they speak only the truth. Thanks be to God for these people.
But I think we also have to admit that they are putting the rest of us to shame because they are embracing the fullness of the truth; they do not doubt it in the least. Yet those who were born and raised Catholics waffle all over the place and wonder and doubt and question and deny various elements of the Church’s teaching. Even if we do accept the fullness of the truth, we do not do anything with it. We are not being very evangelical with regard to the truth; we are not telling anybody about it; we are not bringing Jesus out into the world to bring Him to other people; we are not being the light in the darkness that we are supposed to be; we are not being the salt of the earth that we are supposed to be if we are keeping the bushel basket on top of the lamp.
We need to be able to learn from what these people are doing because the Lord wants there to be one flock and one shepherd, and there will be. It will not be because of human effort – we have our part to do – but we need to pray. We need to pray for this unity within the Church. We need to pray for the continuing conversion of those who are outside the Church. And more than anything right now, we need to pray for the conversion of those who claim to be Catholic and either refuse to accept the teaching of the Church or just do not even know because they have never been taught. We need to pray that their hearts and minds will be open to the truth, that they will hear the Word of God, and that they will begin to speak it. We need to pray the same thing for ourselves. Accepting the fullness of the truth, now we not only need to say, “I believe it,” but we need to live it. We need to be a model of what it means to be Catholic, and we need to be willing to explain our faith to those who question. That is exactly what is required in Sacred Scripture. We have bought the lie that religion is something we are not supposed to talk about, that it is uncouth, or that it is politically incorrect. Well, Jesus has been politically incorrect for 2,000 years; it is not going to stop now. Just don’t play their game and don’t buy the lie.
There is only one way to unity – that is in the truth – and the truth is Jesus Christ. If we are unwilling to tell people the truth, we are in essence denying Christ by our words (or failure to speak them) and by our actions. Pray that the Lord will remove our deafness and our speech impediment so that we will hear the truth, speak the truth, and live the truth, so that the kingdom of God which has been torn apart by sin will be brought back together and there will be one flock and one shepherd to the glory of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.