Beware: The Kingdom of Satan is in Your Midst
July 25, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Genesis 18:20-32) Reading II (Colossians 2:12-14)
Gospel (St. Luke 11:1-13)
In the Gospel reading this morning, the apostles ask Our Lord to teach them how to pray, and the Lord teaches them the Our Father. Now when we look at the way we pray the Our Father, one could set a stopwatch and see if we are actually doing it in less than ten seconds. But when we hear about Our Lord going off to pray, we are told that He went off and spent the entire night in prayer. He got up early before everyone else and went out and prayed. He went by Himself to a deserted place so that He could pray. So if He is spending hours and hours in prayer, why is it that He is telling the apostles just to pray this one tiny, little prayer that consists of seven petitions? Well, the reason is because in these seven petitions of the Our Father is contained every single thing that we could ever pray for.
The point He is making is that, first of all, we are not to say the Our Father but we need to pray the Our Father. Just think of what would happen if we really started looking at what those words mean. What does it mean to call God “Father”? What does it mean then to be a child of God? What would our lives look like if we really truly lived according to our dignity as persons baptized into Jesus Christ? That is something you can meditate on for hours and hours. What about “Hallowed be Thy Name”? Just think what would happen to the movie industry if they actually followed the Second Commandment; half of the movie would be removed because they would not be able to use God’s name in vain anymore. But it is not just the movie industry, what about us, those of us who call God “Father” and pray that His name would be hallowed? How often do we use God’s name in vain when we are angry, when we want to cuss at somebody, when we are surprised, when we want to make a point? These are violations of the Second Commandment. If we are really going to dig into the Our Father and pray, we would begin to recognize that the way we are living and what we are saying is not right. You begin to see that just simply saying the words is not going to be enough to really make a change in our lives.
We pray that God’s kingdom will come. We live in a society that has embraced the kingdom of Satan. Our Lord Himself said that Satan is the prince of this world, and his kingdom is firmly established. It has been since 1973 when America decided that Satan was king and we would offer sacrifice to him, as we have – 4,000 everyday – ever since then. The biggest problem is we pray that God’s kingdom will come except we ourselves so often live according to the ways of the kingdom of Satan. We try to come to church on Sunday and then live a pagan life the rest of the week. Maybe we even spend some time every day in prayer, but then we live the rest of the day the way everybody else does. We cannot do that. If we are going to be living for God’s kingdom, think what it would look like. We would not be putting tattoos all over our bodies and sticking holes all over the place, all of which are mortal sins. We would not be running around with our pants halfway down to our knees, our dresses up to our hind ends, our bellies hanging out, our chests hanging out, and calling ourselves Catholic at the same time.
We have been playing a game all too long of trying to say that it is okay to be both an American and a Catholic. You cannot do it anymore; you have to make a choice. You either have to live as an American, which is to live according to the kingdom of Satan, or you have to live as a Catholic, which is to live according to the kingdom of God. There is not anything in between anymore; the dichotomy is very clear. We cannot be like everyone else. We have a choice that we need to make, and it is a very clear and decisive choice. Again, if we were really to take this prayer to heart, if we were really to dig into this with prayer, what would change in our lives? Where have we given into the kingdom of Satan?
How long do we spend everyday in homage to Satan in front of his box that sits in the living room, or listening to the filth that comes out of most of the radio stations or trash music that does nothing but corrupt our minds and harden our hearts? But we like it! Just ask a teenage kid, “Why do you listen to that trash?” They will tell you, “I like it.” That was not the issue. If they would listen to the words, then you would have to ask them, “What is it that you like? It’s filth!” But they are addicted to the beat; they are addicted to the emotional high that it causes within them. That music is evil, but everyone else is doing it so it must be okay. It just amazes me to think of how many people on their way home from Mass on Sunday are listening to things that glorify Satan, and on their way to Mass on Sunday the same thing. If we are going to pray that God’s kingdom come, we need to live according to that kingdom.
We pray that each day God will give us our daily bread. Do we really trust God? The Israelites out in the desert were told by God that every single day they had to go out and collect only what they needed for the day. They were not to take anything more, but rather they had to trust completely in God that He was going to provide every single day for what it was that they needed. That is certainly not the American way. I am not suggesting that is necessarily the way we have to do it, but at the same time we really need to look at our own situation. Go home and look in your freezer and pantry and ask yourself, “If something happened today, for how long would I be able to eat?” Most of us do not really have to trust God for what we are going to eat tomorrow because we have enough to last about a month. There really is not much trust in God because we do not have to trust God. “We can trust in the almighty dollar so we don’t need God” – that is the American way, but it is not God’s way.
We pray that God will forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who sin against us. It is a funny thing that happens to us: We expect that God is going to forgive us and we can be confident in His mercy, and yet at the same time we do not like to forgive other people. We hold on to grudges. We justify our anger. We try to rationalize our way around everything as to why it is okay for us not forgive, and we ourselves become angry and bitter over some hurt that somebody has caused us. There is this odd system of double standard we follow that when somebody does something small to us, relatively speaking, we get angry and we hold a grudge; but when we offend God in some massive way, we just nonchalantly assume that He is going to wipe it out and it is no big deal. How is it that we can expect that God will forgive us but we do not have to forgive others?
You see, these are some things that we need to consider as we pray the Our Father. We need to take very serious stock of who we are, and we need to really look at what that prayer says. Are we truly seeking God’s kingdom? Are we asking God to make sure that we are not subject to the evil one? Do we pray that He will help us in temptation? Are we seeking to live a truly Catholic life? We are called to live as children of God, and that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no vacation from being a Catholic – ever. We are called to live holy lives. The apostles came to Our Lord and they begged Him to teach them how to pray. Have you ever asked the Lord that yourself? Do we even want it? Too many of us want to keep God at an arm’s distance or further because we are afraid of what it is going to mean if we let Him close. We are afraid to open up our hearts to let Our Lord in. It is a funny thing that we are not afraid to open our hearts to let Satan in. We are afraid if we let Jesus Christ in that He is going to tell us to get rid of the devil, and we like the devil so we do not want him gone.
We live in a society that has embraced Satan wholeheartedly and they are living according to his standards. We have to make a choice. Are we going to stand up and be counted as a Catholic or are we not? Which is more important to you, to be considered your average typical American or to be considered a Catholic? All you have to do is look at the first reading today and then consider the political situation in which we live. They are scurrying with great and reckless abandon to make sure that homosexual marriage, as they call it (there is no such thing, but that is what they want to label it as), is legalized and protected. In Canada, the federal legislature has passed a law stating that if anyone even speaks out against homosexuality it is a federal crime. There are now two Protestant ministers who have been arrested and are awaiting trial in Canada for preaching the Gospel, for saying that homosexuality is wrong. It is not a politically correct thing, but being Catholic is not and never will be politically correct. Our own legislature is attempting as we speak to pass a similar law. Where are we going to stand? I can guarantee you if that law is passed it will not be long before I will be in jail – and I hope that you are there with me for standing up and being counted for what it means to be Catholic, instead of standing up for what it means nowadays to be an American.
I just recently heard a statistic, if there is any question about what is going on. In 1990, there were 8,000 registered witches, Wiccans, in America; in the year 2,000, there were a half million. According to that article, Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America. Wicca is witchcraft; it is Satanism. Isn’t it odd that you cannot, according to the law of the United States of America, bring a book that is Catholic or even Christian into a public school, but they will dole out Harry Potter and other books on witchcraft to the kids without even batting an eyelash?
The kingdom of Satan is in your midst, and it is time that we stop living according to its standards. If we are going to profess our faith, which is what we are going to do in just a few moments, we begin by saying, I believe in one God, not, “I believe in the ways of America.” We have to really think seriously about what it is that we pray and profess. What do we believe? What is required of us? The day is coming very soon where we will all have to stand before the Lord and give a reckoning for our lives. There will be no justifying ourselves before the Lord; there will be no opportunity to explain. Imagine standing before God and saying, “Well, I know what the Scripture said, but everybody else was doing it differently and I needed to fit in. It’s the way that things have been in America and it’s what everyone else was doing. It was the popular thing so I just got caught up in the craze.” At Fatima, Our Lady said, Souls are falling into hell like snowflakes. It is a pretty popular thing. Is that what we want to be doing, what everyone else is doing? I do not think so. We have to make a choice, and it is a radical choice but a very simple one. Do you want to live your life as a Catholic? Or do you want to live your life as a pagan, as the typical American of today?
God has already made His choice. He chose you. He has baptized you, as Saint Paul said in the second reading, into the death and resurrection of His Son. You are a member of Jesus Christ; but God, even though He has chosen you, will never force Himself on you. You, and you alone, have a choice to make. No one will make it for you. No one is going to stand with you on the Day of Judgment and answer for you. We will all stand before God alone and answer for what it is that we have done, for the choices we have made, for the way we have decided to live. We have a very clear and obvious choice to make. Do we want to live according to the way that the Lord has laid out for us in the Our Father? Or do we want to live according to the way that Satan has laid out for us right in our own midst? If we are going to live according to the way of God, we need to ask the Lord to teach us how to pray and we need to make the effort to do it.
Recall the story of the woman who came to Saint Teresa of Avila and wanted to be a nun. Saint Teresa asked her if she knew any prayers, and she said, “I only know one.” Saint Teresa asked, “What prayer is that?” She said it was the Our Father. Then Saint Teresa said, “How long does it take for you to pray that prayer?” She said, “About four hours.” The door of the convent was immediately opened to bring her in. So our ten-second rendition of the Our Father is saying the prayer, but not praying the prayer. I am not saying you need to spend four hours every day praying the Our Father, but just break it down. Take it petition after petition and look at it, pray about it, see what it means, and apply it to your own life. You will be amazed at the changes that will happen if you are willing to live as a true child of God. If you are willing to live according to what it is that you ask for in that prayer, your life will no longer be the same.
That is the choice we have to make. Do we want to be American, that is, pagan? Or do we want to be Catholic? We can call ourselves Americans, yes, we were born Americans so we are Americans in that sense, but that does not mean we have to live the way that the American society is putting before us. So we have a choice: We can be American in that objective sense and live as a Catholic, or we can call ourselves Catholic in the nominal sense and live as an American; it is one or the other. It is the kingdom of Satan or the kingdom of God. You – and you alone – must choose.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.