November 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Luke 17:1-6)
In the first reading today, we hear about Wisdom. We are told that Wisdom is not going to enter into a soul under the debt of sin and that it is going to flee from perverse counsel. At the same time, we hear in the Gospel reading that Our Lord tells us things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but then goes on to say, But woe to the one through whom they occur. Now that woe, then, we see is two points; number one, the fact that we cause sin and therefore there is a ripple effect with regard to the sins we commit, because if we violate someone else and then that person sins, we bear some of the responsibility for what that person did if in fact it is our fault; also, the fact that when we do something which is unjust there is a ripple effect: Who else does it affect? We have to realize that when we stand before the judgment seat of God we are going to be responsible not only for the immediate action that we performed but for the effect that action would have in the lives of others.
So too, Our Lord tells us that if the woe is ours, if it is not only our own immediate sin that we have committed but all the other parts, that is enough, but it is not all because, as we heard, the spirit of wisdom does not dwell in a soul that is under the debt of sin. So if we are in the state of mortal sin, the Holy Spirit does not dwell within our souls. We lose the Holy Trinity at the moment that we sin if it is a mortal sin. We do not lose grace and the Trinity if we are only in the state of venial sin, but if we commit a mortal sin we lose God, we lose that union with the Lord with the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in us. Consequently, we are like a ship without a rudder at that point because, number one, under the debt of sin we cannot see clearly. We cannot think clearly when we have mortal sin on our soul. We are blinded in the area of that sin and in those areas immediately affected by it. At the same time, without God within our soul, we are on our own. And unless we get to Confession quickly, we know what happens when we are on our own– all we are going to do is sin more.
Once again, we see that not only is this a woe for us but the Lord even goes on to say that it would be better if a millstone were put around a person’s neck and they be thrown into the sea rather than to cause one of these little ones to sin. We need, then, to look at our example and our words and all of the things that we do and even the things that we have done. While it is necessary, obviously, that we would confess our sins, we need to pray for those whom we have hurt. If we think back and we look at some of our sins and what we have done to violate another human being, that person carries the weight within himself or herself of what we have done. In charity, we need to pray for that individual, whether it is to pray that God would remove from their memory, from their soul, anything that is there that we have caused for them, that we would pray that God would take away any of the pain or difficulty that is there and we could even offer to take it on ourselves in order to take it away from that other person, or whether it is to pray for that person’s conversion, to pray that that person would be willing to forgive us, to pray for the grace for that person to be able to let go of any unforgiveness and any hurt and anger within themselves.
Those are the kinds of things that out of charity we can do because when Our Lord tells us that it would be better for us if we had a millstone tied around our neck than to cause someone else to sin, those are some pretty serious words. If we think about it and apply it to ourselves, I think we would all have to admit that we are probably responsible for more than one person sinning. If that is the case, we need to do our part to help that person either to break any pattern of sin that we might be responsible for, or at least to be freed from the effects of the sin for which we are responsible, and that way at least to make a little bit of reparation for what we have done and act out of charity toward that individual where we have completely lacked in charity in what we have inflicted upon them.
That would be the spirit of wisdom at work in us if we are now in the state of grace, because that spirit of wisdom, as we saw in the first reading, is a spirit of justice. Justice, in this case, requires that if we have violated someone that we are going to do our part to help them to be able to bear their burden, to overcome the effect of what has happened to them. That is a matter of charity as well as a matter of justice. We can see then that–as always with God–justice and charity are one and the same, and that we have a share in that work and in that grace. So when we see the mercy of God extended to us, we need to extend that mercy to others, not just in forgiving them, as Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that we have to do, but also in helping those whom we have hurt. Even if it is not physically helping them, what is most important is the spiritual help that we give them, to pray for them so that whatever has happened that is our fault in their lives they will be freed from and that they too will turn themselves and their hearts to God so that the effect of the sin that we were involved in with them will be removed from them and they too in true charity with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them with the fullness of grace will be able to serve God and will be able to look at their sins and pray too for the people that they have hurt. That is the way this has to work, the justice and the charity that we have to practice toward those whom we have practiced injustice and lack of charity by our sins.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.