Reading (1 Kings 11:4-13) Gospel (St. Mark 7:24-30)
In the readings today, we see two completely opposing perspectives on things and a great warning for ourselves. In the first reading, we hear about Solomon, to whom we are told that God Himself appeared twice. Solomon, of course, was given wisdom as a gift and he is known as the wisest man to have ever lived. We see that what Solomon did was to turn that wisdom away from God and to himself. It is a warning for all of us in that way to be very careful not to take the gifts that God has given to us and make them somehow selfish, because all of the ability we have comes from Him. If we start looking at it and saying, “Look at what I can do. Look at my talent, my ability, my, my, my…” That is all we get into, and it is all about “me.” As soon as we start getting into “me” instead of into God, we go straight down because we are focused in the wrong direction.
Solomon, then, who knew God and knew that there is only one God, starts building altars for all of his foreign wives. He even starts worshiping some of these foreign gods. Then, worst of all, we are told that he even built an altar to Molech. Molech is a demon who required human sacrifice. And so the people in Israel actually began sacrificing their babies.
Not unlike America, is it? Or most of the other countries in the world right now. We just do it in a little different way, but nonetheless the reality is the same: We are sacrificing our babies to demons. Look at the result. Our society is spiraling out of control, and it is for that very reason. There is no possible way that a society can kill its own and think that it is going to survive. What we have done in America, which was based on Christian principles, is to give ourselves over to false gods. Maybe they do not have explicitly the same names as the ones that Solomon started to worship, but they are false gods nonetheless. Call them what you will – money, abortion, materialism – it is all the same stuff.
They are all demonic things that make us think about ourselves, but the reality is that if we are not looking at God, it is not just ourselves that we are looking at. There is a spiritual reality that underlies these things. If our focus is not on God and looking at what He is doing for us, then our focus is ultimately going to be on Satan. Neither God nor Satan can be seen by us, but only the effects can. So Satan is going to be right there to promise us all kinds of things, but the reality is that what he is going to do is lead us right into ourselves and take us down with him. Satan wants us in hell with him, and he does not care what means he has to use to get us there. He is very slick. Solomon fell into this trap, and we do too. He fell into it because he had married 900 wives. What an idiot! Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that this man was caught up in himself, and that was the trap Satan used. Maybe we will not fall into that particular trap, but Satan knows our weakness, and if we are not praying and working on our virtues, he knows how to pull us down. He will offer us whatever temptation we need.
Then, on the other side, we see this woman who comes to the Lord. She is a pagan. She is a Greek. And the Lord tells her that He is not going to work for her the miracle she is seeking by getting rid of the demon because He came to the children of Israel. It is not right, He says, to take the bread from the children and throw it to the dogs. But when the woman recognizes the reality that she is in, she is able to acknowledge Him and first calls Him “Lord,” and then points out that even the dogs under the table eat the scraps of the children. Because this woman was willing to make an act of faith in Him, she received the favor for which she was looking.
So we see that if someone turns away from idols and turns to the true God that the blessings of the Lord are going to be theirs. But if we turn away from the worship of the one true God to false gods, to give ourselves over to idols of whatever variety they might be, we are going to be in trouble. It is a fine balance on the natural level to walk. It is as simple as can possibly be on the spiritual level. There is only one God, and Him alone are we to worship.
Again, we need to be careful. We are probably not burning incense to dollar bills and we are probably not bowing down with our faces to the ground in front of our TV sets, but the reality is that if we are giving ourselves over to such things, they become idols for us. If we start turning our hearts away from God to put them on things of the natural level, or the preternatural level, then we are going to be in trouble. Our hearts stray.
So we need to pray to keep our hearts focused on God. We need to have a deep and profound relationship with God, not just an intellectual knowledge that there is only one God and even to be able to acknowledge that, but to have a relationship with Him because it is only in that relationship that we can be assured that our hearts are not going to stray. We need to keep our hearts focused on Him. It is not an intellectual exercise, but an exercise of the heart, to keep our hearts where they belong: solely focused on the one true God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.