Thursday January 17, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week on Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Samuel 4:1-11) Gospel (St. Mark 1:40-45)
We hear in the first reading today about this defeat of the Israelite army by the Philistines, and the capture of the ark of God. The question that the Israelites ask is an important one: Why has God allowed this to happen? When we look at the various things that happen, whether in our lives or those of others, sometimes we ask the exact same question: Why has God allowed this to happen?
Well, there are two reasons. First of all, there are [spiritual] consequences of our actions. If we were to have read what came before this, we would realize that the Israelites were not following the Will of God and that Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli who were priests in the temple at Shiloh, were dishonest. They were stealing from the people, they were not serving the Lord, and they were not doing what they were supposed to do as priests. All of a sudden, it comes time to do this [to wage war] and they want to march into camp and be heroes. It is not going to happen that way. It is a lesson, then, for everybody, that we need to be seeking to do the Lord's Will. We know there are going to be times when we will fall, but it is a matter of trying to do His Will. It is one thing if we are trying and falling; it is another when we really do not want to do His Will. So that is part of it.
The other part is just the simple natural consequences. Sin brings about consequences. The saints have always told us that war is a result of sin. What happens is that when we sin, we bring about chaos. And if we are going to sin, there are things that will follow from it. We have some things that happen just on the natural level because of our own actions, and then we have some things that are happening on the spiritual level because if we choose freely to reject the Lord (we could say that the Israelites had not out and out rejected God; they just did not want to do His Will), God is going to allow things to happen.
Yet, as we will see as we go along, it winds up - as everything does - being for God's greater glory because when the Philistines capture the ark and bring it to the temple of their false god, Dagon, the statue of the false god continues to fall flat on its face. Eventually, the Philistines send the ark back to Israel. And so, God will even bring about His glory through our sinfulness. I think all of us have seen that happen over and over again. He brings about humility for us, which we all need, helps us to realize that we need to do His Will and that it is not enough just to call upon Him when we find our backs up against the wall, but go out and sin in the meantime. So we know that we need to put our own house in order. But also, even in the midst of our humiliation, God is still the God of glory and He will be glorified. He will use every opportunity to help us and to glorify Himself. And so, even when things do not look so good, even when we ask the question "Why would God allow something so horrible to happen?" the answer is simply to trust and just to wait. God will work things out for our good and for His glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.