Monday May 16, 2005 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 from the beginning of the Book of Sirach all about wisdom, and the wisdom of God being personified. For us, of course, the wisdom of God, as Saint Paul makes clear to the Corinthians, is Jesus Himself. But in this particular case, as Sirach is looking at things, what is important for us is that he tells us that God has poured wisdom forth upon all His works, upon every living thing according to His bounty, and He has lavished her upon His friends. Now Jesus called us His friends. And if God has lavished wisdom upon His friends and Our Lord has called us His friends, then we know that the wisdom of God has been lavished upon us according to His bounty.
Now we can look at ourselves and wonder, “Why don’t I see the wisdom of God profoundly at work within myself?” I think the answer is right there in the Gospel reading. The apostles are trying to cast out a demon from this boy and they are not able to do so. After Our Lord exorcises the child, the apostles come back to Him and say, “Why couldn’t we get rid of it?” Jesus said, With this type, you are only able to do it through prayer. That is where the wisdom of God is seen. That is where it is going to be found: only in prayer. Wisdom, remember, especially as a gift of the Holy Spirit, comes through experience. It is not knowledge, it is not understanding. Wisdom has to do with the experience that we have of the very Person of God Himself, and the way that we are going to have experience of the Person of God is through prayer.
We see a very huge piece of wisdom in the father of this child. First he is very frustrated and arguing with the apostles about the fact that they could not get rid of the demon. Then, when Our Lord looks at him, the man asks Him, “If you can do this…” and Jesus said, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for those who have faith. And the man with the wisdom of God at work said, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Is that not where every last one of us stands right now? We do believe, but tragically there is a huge chunk of unbelief that is at work in each and every one of us, a huge chunk of unbelief. We do believe in Jesus, but when it comes down to the practical reality we do not. We do not really believe in what He tells us. We do not really believe in all of His promises. If we did, we would not live the way that we do. And so we are our own witnesses against ourselves that we really do not believe. Objectively we believe; we know the teachings of the Church and we believe them. So it is not that we are lacking on that level. We have all the stuff in the head, but we do not have it in the heart. There is only one way to transfer what we have in the head into the heart, there is only one way to transfer knowledge to knowing, and that is in prayer.
So when we deal with our own unbelief, then we can look at Our Lord’s answer to His apostles. We can come to Him, not asking this time about demons but asking about our own problem, and say, “Lord, what am I supposed to do with this? Why can’t I get this into my heart?” He will look at us and He will say, This can only be done through prayer. Therein lies the wisdom of God, Who has been poured forth into our hearts. If we want to be able to access that wisdom – Who is the Person of Jesus Christ – it is only possible through prayer.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.