Sunday Sermon for July 7, 2013, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
In the first reading today God says through the Prophet Isaiah that we are to rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad because of her. He goes on to tell us of the wonderful benefits that will accrue to those who are comforted in Jerusalem in a manner similar to the comfort a child receives in his mother’s lap. So wonderful will this be that we are told that our hearts will rejoice and our bodies flourish like the grass because the Lord’s power will be known to His servants.
The Church is the new Jerusalem and in her we find our comfort. If we use the above analogy to the child who is comfortable in his mother’s lap, this is in part because of the love he receives, but it is also in part because of the protection and security he feels. This holds true for those in the Church as well. We find our protection and security in her, but we also receive the outpouring of love from the Lord when we are at peace in her.
In the Gospel reading we hear the Apostles rejoicing because even the demons were subject to them because of the Name of the Lord. Jesus takes this reality to an even deeper level telling them that He has given them power to tread upon the full force of the enemy without incurring any harm. This sounds like a great cause for rejoicing and an even greater cause to feel comfort, security and protection.
However, although all of these things are true, the Lord tells the Apostles not to rejoice because the spirits are subject to them, but they are to rejoice because their names are written in Heaven. It is good to know that the Church, and those given authority by her, have this kind of power over the demons, but it a far greater thing to know that the demons will not have power over us in eternity.
God allows the demons some measure of freedom to cause us trouble while here on earth, but this is ultimately for our purification and for the salvation of souls. Even in these situations the devil really has no power over us. He can do only what God allows, and this allowance is always with a good end in mind.
We do not want to focus on the negative because our Lord tells us to rejoice with our focus on Heaven. Yes, it is a great thing that in the Church we have power over the spirits, but getting caught up in that is to focus in the wrong direction. The child in his mother’s arms does not worry about what kind of power he has with his mother. His only concern is remaining with her and, thereby, knows that he has nothing to fear. Another way of putting it is that he can rejoice that his name is written in his mother’s heart and mind. His focus remains on her and he is secure.
If our names are written in Heaven, then that is where our focus needs to be. Remain within the embrace of the Church and we will have nothing else to fear. Our problem is when we wrestle our way out of the Church’s embrace through sin or disobedience. When we have removed our eyes and our hearts from our mother, then we lose the peace and security we had when we were with her.
It is difficult to keep our focus where it belongs because there is so much pulling at us in this society in which we live. St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us how this task of keeping focused is accomplished when he says that through the Cross of our Lord he has been crucified to the world and the world to him. None of the enticements of the world held sway over him after he had reached this point.
This kind of spiritual crucifixion is very painful, but the fruit of it is complete and total freedom. Freedom from the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Freedom to do always what is right, the freedom to be the persons we were created to be. This is what our Lord is telling us to rejoice in.
We have complete peace and security within the Church and in the victory won for us by Jesus on the Cross. This is the knowing the power of the Lord. The power over spirits is nothing compared to the power to confect the Eucharist, to forgive sin and to raise the dead. This is where we find our real peace and security. Do not focus on the negative and do not rejoice in what is secondary; focus on Heaven and rejoice in what is primary: your salvation.
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 www.thewandererpress.com.