Sunday Sermon for February 19, 2012, the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25; 2Cor 1:18-22; Mk 2:1-12

In the first reading today God points out through the Prophet Isaiah that He is doing something new and asks if we cannot see it. The time in which Isaiah was writing was a time of rebellion, sinfulness and wandering from the Lord for the people of Israel. In other words, it was a time similar to our own.

As more and more people fall away from their faith, one might begin to wonder where God is and why He is allowing this to happen. The fact is that we need to be purified. For several decades now the people in the Church have not kept faith with the Lord. The Bishops and priests have been more interested in money and political correctness than in truth and the salvation of souls; in a word, we have loved ourselves more than God or neighbor.

People are finding themselves pulled between two extremes that are both false: self-indulgence and self-hatred. These lies have led people to believe that they have no dignity, that they are objects. I recall hearing with horror a very powerful and wealthy man speak about the rest of us as “disposable containers;” when he was challenged about this he changed his wording to “useless eaters.” It is no wonder people have such a low regard for themselves.

Our Lord tells us that the truth will set us free. In the meantime, the lies have paralyzed us, like the man in the Gospel today. When the paralytic in the Gospel had his sins forgiven, his paralysis left him and he was able to walk. We have had our sins forgiven and we have received the Eucharist many times, but still nothing seems to change.

God says through Isaiah that He is making a way in the desert and rivers in the wasteland. He says that He wipes out our sins and remembers them no more. This is the reason He tells us to remember not the events of the past. All too often we hang on to the sin rather than the forgiveness.

When we see how far astray we have been led by our society, by the media, and by the failure of the pastors of souls to lead, protect and pasture their flocks, we begin to understand why a purification is necessary for individuals, for the Church and for the world.

Tragically, like Jacob we have not called upon the Lord and like Israel we have grown weary of God. Just as a light seems brighter when it is darker, so we will recognize God working in His new way, springing forth, the further away from God the world wanders. I think most of us can see that the ways of the world have turned into emptiness. It is amazing that the more we have the poorer we become. Spiritually, the world has become a desert in the midst of material opulence.

In our lowly, broken state the recognition and acceptance of our dignity will shine more brightly and we will give greater glory to God. St. Paul says in the second reading that Jesus is not “yes” and “no;” He is only “yes.” He is a “yes” to all of the promises of God, as St. Paul says, but it also means that His choice of you has not changed. He is saying “yes” to you and about you. This is not anything we have done, we are not worthy of this gift nor did we earn it. Jesus tells us in St. John’s Gospel that we did not choose Him, He chose us. It makes no sense to us, which is why we so often reject the gift.

It is sad that so many have lost sight of or completely rejected their dignity, but this will serve to make it all that more glorious when they can see and accept the truth about themselves as God sees them. God is truly going to make the desert bloom. No one would take much notice of new blossoms in a rainforest that is always green but everyone notices when a desert blooms. The barrenness of the desert makes the blossoms seem so much more glorious.

We have been led out into the desert by accepting a bunch of lies. However, God is making a way in this desert and for those with spiritual eyes it will be as obvious as a desert in bloom. We will have to be stripped of our selfishness, our greed and our indulgence. When these things have been purified we will accept the truth which is springing forth like a stream in a desert. In and through prayer, look within the world, look within the Church, look within your own soul: God is doing something new! It springs forth do you not perceive it?

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