Sunday Sermon for February 9, 2014, the fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 58:7-10; 1Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. A light shining in the darkness is obvious for everyone to see from miles around. Salt, while it often not be seen in food, it quite noticeable in the flavor. If there is too much or too little the food does not taste right. I am always amazed at the difference when a cook adds just a little salt to something that has already been tasted and was deemed to be lacking in salt. With either light or salt, a little goes a long way.

The Church is to be Christ is the world today, but each of us is a member of the Church and a member of Jesus, so each of us must bring Jesus into the world by our words and, especially, by our actions. Each person brings his or her own feeble light into the darkness and puts it at the service of the Church; together they combine to make one great light.

This is the dignity of our calling in Christ. However, we have to admit that there are times when we do not allow the light of Christ it shine in us and through us; we hide it under a bushel basket. We do this when we are afraid to stand up for the truth, we do it when we accept something that violates the law of God, we do it when we fail to treat others with the dignity that is theirs.

Today people ask often why God does not intervene to put a stop to the troubles in the Church and in the world. We pray and He seems far away. Sometimes that can be a means of purification, but as we see in the first reading, it can also be the effects of our actions. We are a funny lot who think that we can act against the Law of God and then assume that He will be present at our beck and call.

The Lord says through Isaiah that when we share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked and do not turn our backs on our own, then He will answer when we call Him. In a world that has chosen to accept abortion, homosexual lifestyles, cohabitation, fornication, adultery, euthanasia, cloning, and so many other immoral acts, how can we expect the Lord to act when we pray?

We could respond by saying that we are praying for these things to end. It is true, but when we look at the number of people who call themselves Catholic, even among the hierarchy, who are either in favor of these things, or vote for those who are while claiming to be personally opposed, God will not draw near to us. The Church is supposed to be the teacher of morality to the world. The media has made sure that every scandal they can find has been publicized; this has undermined the Church’s credibility when she speaks. Isn’t it tragic and ironic that the President of Russia would claim that Russia will now be the moral compass for the world?

Our Lady’s prediction at Fatima has come to pass that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world. Sadly, people are embracing these errors and even rejoicing in them as though they have found some kind of freedom they had not known previously. Everything is upside down!

God will, indeed, intervene, but not until the Church has come to know Jesus Christ crucified. This will only happen by being crucified with Him. It also must be understood that this implies both the universal Church and the individual members of the Church. Until we know the power of the Cross and really trust in the Lord, He will stay back from us. This is not as a punishment, but to help us to learn how to be dependent upon Him.

Of course, our Lord is at work in the world, even if in a hidden way. The same it true in our own lives. However, if we continue to be faithful in prayer and in the works of virtue to which we are called, He will show Himself to us in many ways.

St. Paul says that he wants our faith to be based, not on human wisdom but on the power of God. The power of God is shown most profoundly in the Cross. Too many of us have embraced the wisdom of the world and have subtly rejected the wisdom of God. Pray and trust; the Cross is the wisdom and the power of God which will transform us into the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

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