Reading (1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19) Gospel (St. Mark 7:31-37)
In the first reading today, we hear about how the Lord took ten of the tribes away from Solomon’s reign. Solomon, David’s son, was punished because of his sinfulness, and the punishment was that the king was no longer going to have reign over all of Israel, but there would only be one tribe left to Solomon. So we are told that the people of Israel went into rebellion against the house of David from that day. This is exactly what sin is all about. It is rebellion. Sin is rebellion against God. And if we are going to rebel against God, we are also going to rebel against those who serve God. When we look at what Solomon does, he sets up all of these altars to these false gods and he offers sacrifice to them. Because he went into rebellion against God, there is rebellion against him.
We see the exact same problem today. If sin is nothing more than rebellion – and rebellion is as witchcraft, Scripture says – then it is idol worship, and we do the exact same thing. We are not necessarily setting up altars to false gods and offering sacrifice and incense to them, but the reality is that we are not worshiping the Lord the way that we ought if we are out committing serious sins, because we have set up some false idol. No matter what selfish act it might be, the reality is that is what we have done, and we go into rebellion against God. Sin also brings chaos. So we see exactly what happens in our lives. When we start giving into sin, chaos reigns. There are all kinds of things that follow from it in our own lives. We start slipping away from God and losing control of all the things in our lives.
That is what we see happening to Solomon. Because he is the king, of course, it is going to happen on a much larger scale because the whole kingdom was entrusted to his care. We see that because his sin was very public and very heinous, the punishment for his sin was also going to be very public and it was going to affect all the people of Israel.
At the same time, we see in the Gospel this man being brought to Jesus. This is a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Because of his faith, the Lord heals him. He simply puts his fingers in his ears and spits on his tongue. We look at that and think it is rather disgusting, yet this is precisely the way the Lord chose to heal him.
Now we can look at our own selves and we can see that what is really disgusting is our sinfulness and our rebellion against God. If God chooses to heal us through some means that we may not particularly appreciate, we still need to be able to see what He is doing and we need to be faithful. We need to allow ourselves to be healed according to God’s Will. Even if we might find the way that He chooses to do it a little bit repulsive, it does not matter. God knows the way that is the most perfect. If He decides that He wants to spit on our tongue (in a different form these days, obviously) that is entirely up to Him if that is the means by which we will be healed. If something like that were to happen, all we would have to do is ask: How many times have we spit in His face? How many times have we violated Him? So if He chooses a means by which we are going to be healed which may be difficult, which may be for us rather frustrating, it is okay. All we have to do is look at it and say, “I deserve a whole lot worse because of my sins.” And we do.
The Lord wants to heal us of our rebellion. He wants to heal us of our sinfulness because it is not a matter now of taking ten tribes and giving them to someone else; the rebellion divides us internally. We are divided against our own self. Jesus prayed that His followers would be one, and we are not even one within our own self, let alone within the churches. We need that internal unity before we are ever going to achieve any kind of external unity. The only one who can heal it is the Lord. So if we come to Him and acknowledge that we have been deaf to His words because we have gone into rebellion, that we have a speech impediment because instead of speaking the words of God we speak all kinds of other things that are inappropriate, then we have to ask Him to heal us. We have to ask Him to unite what we have torn into pieces inside of ourselves, and let Him choose the means by which we will be healed. No matter how difficult or easy it may seem, no matter how simple or repulsive to us it might seem, it does not matter. Just look at the rebellion, the chaos, and the sinfulness that we ourselves have caused, and recognize that that is what is truly difficult and disgusting, and that whatever God is going to do to heal us is actually the way that is going to be the very best, the most perfect, to bring about the healing of what we ourselves have caused.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.