The Division Between Sanctity and Sin
Thursday October 20, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 6:19-23) Gospel (St. Luke 12:49-53)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us that He came not only to light a fire on earth but He came also to endure a baptism. The word baptism means “a cleansing.” So the purpose of what Our Lord came to this world for was to cleanse the world and to cleanse our individual souls with His own Precious Blood. And of this cleansing, He tells us, He is in anguish until it happens. The anguish, of course, had to do with His own Passion, as well as His desire for our souls to be sanctified. The reason they need to be sanctified, Saint Paul tells us, is because of sin.
There is this division that Our Lord talks about among families, but there is a division within ourselves that Saint Paul talks about. The division has to do with sin and sanctity; it is just that simple. Ultimately, then, it is a question of Christ or Satan; it is about sanctity or sin and whether we are going to choose the Lord or we are going to choose Satan. There are lots and lots of ways that we can choose the devil even without saying, “Satan is my friend,” or, “I want the devil instead of Christ,” or whatever it might be. The fact is that if we choose sin we have chosen Satan.
What we can all do is exactly what Saint Paul suggests in the first reading today. We can look back at some of our foolishness and we can ask the question: What profit did you get from these things of which you are now ashamed? But if you think back to those times, more than likely there are two ways that they took place. Either they were so shameful that you tried to hide them because you knew it was wrong, but at the same time, even though hiding the sins, you immersed yourself in them because you liked them and because you thought this was going to gain you something, whether it is the immediate pleasure, whether it is acceptance, whether it is love, who knows what it is that we are looking for when we give in to these sorts of things. The other possibility goes the opposite way, that in our arrogance we actually flaunted it. It causes division because we are going to try to justify why it is okay for us to sin; then, of course, anybody who is telling us that we should not be, we think: “They must be sick; they must be mentally ill. What’s wrong with them?” We try in every way, shape, and form to either justify or to keep hidden what we are doing. Even in keeping it hidden it is because of the shame, but we try to justify within ourselves why it is okay for us to sin.
Now we look back on it and say, “And what profit is it? All it did was keep me from Christ. It kept me from growing in holiness. It kept me from getting closer to Christ and having a higher place in heaven. It dragged me down. It killed the life of Christ in my soul.” The list could go on and on. And what did you profit? Zero. There is not one single thing that we can honestly point to and say, “This is the profit that came.” God will bring good out of evil. He will use all of our past sins in order to bring about good, but when we look at it on the natural level (or even on the spiritual level), other than what God will bring from it (just look at the thing itself) the profit is zero; in fact, it is less than that–it’s in the red.
Yet, at the same time, Saint Paul goes on to tell us that if we become slaves of God the benefit is sanctification and eternal life. That is what we have to be about. But if we are going to be about sanctification, which means holiness, which means we have to be rooted in prayer and living the life of Christ, then we know exactly what the response of those who have immersed themselves in sin will be–exactly what our response was when we were immersed in sin. It causes division. Of course, the amazing thing is that when we were immersed in sin the one causing division in our estimation was the one who was trying to follow Christ because they are the weird ones. So now if we are going to try to follow Christ and if we are going to try to grow in holiness, guess who is going to be blamed for the division. And, of course, if we even look beyond who they are pointing the finger at, they are going to say it is Christ who is causing the division.
Isn’t it interesting, the lie of the devil? All who are one in Christ are united. All who are one in Satan are separated. Yet those who immerse themselves in sin somehow feel like they are connected, that they are united, and therefore they attack those who are not immersed in their sinfulness and they blame it on Christ. The Lord tells us that He has come to bring division, but it is division between truth and lies, it is a division between good and evil, it is the division between sanctification and sin. Therefore, it is the division between Satan and Christ Himself. But for those who are seeking sanctification, He is the point of unity. The unity is in love, the unity is in truth, the unity is in holiness, and the holiness is the very Person of Jesus Christ. All who are in the state of sanctifying grace are unified in the life and the Person of Jesus Christ. That separates those who are being sanctified from those who are immersed in sin. That is the division. But if we recognize where the point of unity is, that is where we need to seek and that is what we need to hold on to–and the point of unity is Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.