Monday January 26, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 5:1-7,10) Gospel (St. Mark 3:22-30)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that if a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand. In the first reading, we hear about the people of Israel coming to David and making him their king. At that point, the kingdom had been divided for a long time into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Now, under David, the two kingdoms were once again brought together under one single king so that there would be a united kingdom, a united front for the worship and the glory of God, which is exactly what God had intended from the very beginning.
It is also what He expects of and intends for us. If we look at our own lives, we realize that in many ways we are a kingdom divided against itself. On one hand, we proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ; and, on the other hand, we do things that are directly in opposition to that faith in Jesus Christ. On one hand, we say that we want to do the Will of God; and, on the other hand, as soon as we know the Will of God, we run the other direction and we do not seem to want anything to do with His Will. We realize that we, in this way, are a kingdom divided against ourselves.
And the devil has a field day with that. We have to remember that the devil knows very well our weaknesses; he has been watching us since the day we were born. He knows exactly what buttons to push; he knows what temptations to put in front of us; he knows what suggestions to make in our minds and the subtlety of them. It does not have to be anything extraordinary. After all, if he appeared as a huge dragon with flames coming out and smelling like sulfur, we would all go the other direction. So instead, he appears as our friend and he tells us all the good things we want to hear. “If you do this, it’ll make you feel good. This will take away your pain. This will do something good for you.” Whatever it happens to be – “People will think you’re good” or “You’ll impress somebody” – it does not matter. He starts out by putting just the tiniest little seed into your mind, knowing that over the hours and days it is going to grow. And as you start thinking about it and pondering it, it starts to develop. Pretty soon, the thing that you were so adamantly against just hours before, you have now convinced yourself is a completely adequate thing to do, and you give in – and fall flat on your face once again. It is the human reality, but that is the kingdom divided against itself.
What we have to do is be steadfast about seeking God. Now we know that until we are perfect we are going to continue to sin. Therefore, we need to stay close to the confessional. We have a problem that lots of people think it is no big deal to go ahead and sin and just keep going without going to confession. If we do that, we just weaken ourselves, and we start heaping sin upon sin. We need to make regular use of the confessional even if we do not have mortal sins. As I oftentimes point out to people, if you wait until you commit a mortal sin before you go to confession, you eventually will, because you start piling up venial sins. Pretty soon the venial sins do not look very bad to you and you are going to fall into mortal sin. And that is exactly what the devil wants.
The devil is very shrewd and very patient. He knows fully well that if you are developing some virtue he is not going to attack you in that area. What he is going to do is sit back in the weeds. He will just wait very, very patiently because he knows that the day will come when you think that you have now overcome this problem in your life. “I will never do that again. I’ve finally overcome it. I can’t fall in that area.” That is the day he is looking for. Then he pounces with all of his might, and down you go because you let your guard down.
We need to turn to Jesus. We need to keep the guard up at all times. We need to recognize our weakness and that we cannot do it by ourselves. It is that desire to do it ourselves that causes the division in our kingdom, because we say that we are going to depend on Christ and do it His way, and then we try to do it our way. It does not work because the devil is waiting for us to try to do it our way. So what we need to do is be focused on Christ, completely dependent on Him, seeking His Will, His grace for protection, for help, for strength against the attacks of the devil, and be steadfast about seeking the Will of God. Not giving it lip service while then continuing to do whatever we want to do, but truly seeking His Will in prayer and in the way that we live our lives so that our kingdom will not be divided. The strong man will be tied up – that is, the devil – and we can plunder him by the Will of God. That is what God is offering for each of us if we will unite our kingdom under Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.