Keep Your Focus on Jesus
Friday February 1, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17) Gospel (St. Mark 4:26-34)
Over the last couple of days we have seen God's promise to David: how because of David's fidelity and desire to build a house for the Lord, the Lord in turn promises to David that God will build a house for David, that one of his sons will reign upon his throne and all these different promises the Lord had made. Yesterday, we see David going before the Lord in the temple and talking to God about the promise that had been made. Then today, of course, we see him sinning: committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then trying to cover up his sin by having her husband killed. One needs to ask what happened. How can we go from wanting to serve the Lord completely with your whole heart, wanting to build a temple of the Lord and wanting to do all these things, having the promise of the Lord, and then turn around and commit such a heinous crime?
What happens, in our humanness, is two things. First of all, we get arrogant. We look at the things the Lord has done; then we start to get arrogant and think that, somehow, because we are so special, we can do it by ourselves now: "The Lord has made this promise so now I can do anything that I want." We let the guard down; we do not protect ourselves the way we ought to because we think, unfortunately, that God is simply going to keep us from doing anything that is wrong because He has made all these promises to us. I think we all know better than that; all we have to do is look at our own lives. We have all the promises of God; yet if we use our free will to sin against Him, He does not stop us. The same was true with David. He thought himself to be somewhat invincible and therefore went off and did stupid things.
At the same time, I think we would also have to say that what probably happened is he stopped praying. Not that he stopped going before the Lord, but rather, what probably happened was that he would go before the Lord and he would sit around and think about himself - think about how wonderful he is because God is going to make a kingdom from him and there are going to be kings raised up from his own sons, that his throne is going to last forever - and think about all these wonderful things. Instead of focusing on the Lord, he just started focusing on himself. Then when he sees a beautiful woman, rather than focusing on the Lord and praying against the temptations, all he did was focus on himself and his own wants and desires. He had stopped praying, in essence. That, too, is something that we all need to learn a lesson from that we do not do the same thing, that we keep our focus on Christ.
There are times when things get difficult in the spiritual life. There are times when the Lord is asking us to work through some point of detachment or when it is time to work through a transition or whatever it might be and we do not want to look at the Lord because we know that if we look at Him it is going to be painful. He is going to say, "We need to work on this thing," and we are saying, "No, I don't want to." So we run all over the place and we just look at ourselves; we look at consolations; we look at things that are more pleasant than prayer. Then we get ourselves into trouble.
So the pattern is there. The pattern is there in David, and I am sure we can all look at the pattern in ourselves because we have probably seen it over and over again. It is something we need to learn so that we do not repeat it again. Maybe we have not done something as awful as what David did in this situation, but nonetheless, we know the pattern. And if we do not stop and if we do not get it turned around and start looking at the Lord and praying and facing whatever that painful thing is on the inside, we will continue to get worse and worse and do bigger and worse things.
We need to make sure that we keep our focus where it belongs - not on ourselves, but on God. We can look at the promises of God, but, again, not to think that because God has made these promises to us that therefore we are invincible or that we are so incredibly wonderful that God could not have done any better and that is why He picked us. As we have pointed out over and over again, that is just not the truth. We need to keep reminding ourselves of it. We are unworthy of the promises. It is because of God's mercy that He has made these promises, not because we were so wonderful. If we can keep ourselves humble and keep our focus on Christ then we will not fall. But if we take our focus off the Lord and put it on ourselves, then we are going to repeat the same pattern that we see in David. So the solution is a very simple one: continue to pray, continue to come before the Lord - but get the focus off the self and keep it on Jesus.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.