Sunday Sermon for August 14, 2016, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53

In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that He came to cause division and that a household would be divided three against two and two against three. This is one of those passages which most people like to forget because we want Jesus to be warm and fuzzy and to say what we want Him to say. However, as it was in times past, so it is again, that we are living in this situation exactly. People have to make a choice either for or against Jesus.

There are differing reasons for this. On the one hand, we can look at the growing terrorist attacks against the Church and the people of profess their faith in the Lord. There are heroic stories of people who refused to deny the Lord and have died in extraordinarily horrible ways that only a demonic mind could devise. There are also tragic stories of people who denied the Lord just in order to save their hide for a few more years in this unfortunate world.

In some cases these are people in the same families who are making opposite choices. Children are being put to death in front of their parents because the children refuse to apostatize but the parents denied their faith. Sometimes it is the other way around. I laud the heroic Nigerians who continue to go to Mass despite the constant threat that the church will be burned or blown up while they are inside.

In another way, families are being divided due to secular influences. We live with the “God loves everybody,” “Everybody goes to Heaven,” and “I believe in God, but…” nonsense that we hear as a regular excuse for why people do not go to Mass. Of course, we also hear that God knows my heart, I can pray anywhere, all religions are the same (or at least we worship the same God), or my favorite: “I’m a good person.” All of these are justifications for denying the Catholic Faith, foregoing Mass or having babies baptized, or to explain that it is people who believe that one religion is better than another who are causing all of the division. After all, if we just accept everyone, we can all be united.

What is interesting is that these people do not acknowledge the obvious: that just accepting everyone means accepting that we are not united. Only truth and charity can unite us; false ideas, whether that be false gods, false compassion, or relativism will only continue to divide. This is the larger problem that we have in a society that refuses to stand for the truth. We have become lukewarm; a condition which our Lord says will get us spewed out of His mouth. It is interesting that we become passionate for ideas that are not true and are even destructive, but the only passion we have for the truth is to deny it or destroy it.

A quick look at the first reading shows us that this is not the first time in history that this has happened. God revealed His truth first to the Israelite people who became lukewarm and did not want to carry out God’s will, but wanted to be just like everyone else. When God would raise up a Prophet, the people killed the Prophet because he spoke the truth that they found inconvenient. We hear about one of the plots against Jeremiah, but we have the same thing going on today. Look at what the media does to the truth or to those who speak it.

There is an agenda and it is not to promote the truth. Therefore, the truth is the enemy because it is antithetical to their cause. The ultimate intent is to remove God from society. The way to begin that process is to reject individual revealed truths, marginalize those who uphold the truth, and ridicule anyone who would disagree with their agenda. If one does not want to be ridiculed and marginalized, that is, if one wants to fit in or be like everyone else, then that person has to deny the truth and accept the prevailing politically correct positions on issues that contradict the teaching of the Church.

Needless to say, this brings division within families and, on a larger scale within the Church. But, as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (remember, the Greek word for witness is martyr) who upheld the truth, suffered for the truth, and some of whom died for the truth. This is the family which calls God its Father. Those who desire to remain in full union with the family will hold firm to God’s revelation of truth in the person of His Son. Everyone else is divided.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit