Wednesday February 26, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 4:11-19) Gospel (St. Mark 9:38-40)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about this man who is trying to cast out demons in the Name of Jesus. It is a rather astounding Gospel because if you stop to think about it, this is happening right within Our Lord’s own lifetime. There is somebody who not only recognized that Jesus was casting out demons but actually was casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. It was somebody who believed in Who the Lord was and was willing to step out in faith and use the Holy Name of Jesus to cast away the devil. Now when we see something like this and hear the Lord’s response: “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me,” we then come to a very important point for us, and that is our own belief in the power of the Name of Jesus. Here we have somebody who was not a Christian (because the Christian religion had not yet even been founded) and yet somebody who believed so completely in the Name of the Lord that he would do these mighty works in Our Lord’s Name.
And then we have us, who from the time we were baptized are Christian people. We know that the Lord’s Name has power and we know that He is God; yet most often we never call upon His Name to do anything. We really do not believe when it comes right down to it. We know objectively that His Name is holy and that it has power. We know that the disciples rejoiced that even the demons were subject to them in His Name. We know that there is no other name given to humanity by which we are to be saved. All of these things we know, but we just keep them at an arm’s distance. We believe them in our heads but we do not allow them to get down into our hearts.
This is a particularly Catholic problem. If you have ever wondered, for instance, why among Protestants the Holy Spirit seems so much at work sometimes, why they are able to work amazing things, it is because rather than just believing in an objective faith up in their heads, theirs is much more subjective. If they are going to believe in Jesus, they are going to put it into practice. They are going to live what it is that they proclaim, primarily because for most Protestants there is no objective faith – all that they have is subjective. So if they are going to say that they believe in Jesus, that means it is down in the heart and it is going to be lived. For Catholics, because there is a dogmatic element to faith and therefore it is objective, it is very easy for us to say “yes” in our heads and never let it get down to our hearts, never let it really sink in and be put into practice. And so when we wonder why we do not see the working of the Holy Spirit so powerfully – which is something that many of the people who have converted (especially the former evangelicals) have asked me often, “Why is it that here we are in the Catholic Church with all seven sacraments, with the fullness of truth, with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, and we don’t see the effects of it? We aren’t seeing the mighty deeds of God being worked in the Catholic Church like we used to in the evangelical church! What’s wrong?” – the point is a very simple one: We do not allow the Lord in, even though we have everything in its fullness.
So the problem is not with the Lord – the problem lies with us. We need to put that faith into practice, not just objectively but subjectively. And that is a scary proposal for us. It seems like something which should be so obvious and so natural, but it is not. So we need to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to do it, and it means that we have to step out in faith and take that truth that we already know fully well in our minds and let it sink into our hearts, and allow the power of the Lord, of His Holy Name, of His Holy Spirit, of His seven sacraments, of His truth, all of those things, those gifts that He has given to us, we need to allow that power to work in our lives.
I have very often said of the Protestants that when we look at the work they are doing with the truth that they have, if they became Catholic imagine what they would do with the fullness of the truth. Some of them put us to shame and they only have a portion of the truth. What would they do if they had it all? We have it all. What are we doing with it? Are we allowing the power of the Lord’s Name to really fill our hearts and our lives? Do people see the working of the Holy Spirit within us because they see that what we believe we are allowing to shine through us? One day we are going to have to stand before the Lord and He is not merely going to ask us if we believed in our heads; He is going to ask us what this faith really did in our lives, if we really put into practice what we professed with our lips, if we really believed in our hearts what we proclaimed with our heads. We need to look very seriously at this point to be able to ask the question: Who do we say that Jesus is? We know the answer – now we need to put it into practice.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.