Sunday Sermon for February 9, 2020, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 58:7-10; 1Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

In the second reading today St. Paul tells the Corinthians that when he came to them, preaching the mystery of God, he did not come with sublimity of words or wisdom.  Instead, he decided to preach about nothing but Jesus Christ crucified.  This demonstrates that the faith of the Corinthians was not based on human wisdom, but on the power of God.

In our situation today we are faced with many challenges to our faith.  As we witness the exodus of many people from the Church, one has to wonder if their faith was based on human wisdom or on the power of God.  There is no doubt that the formal teachings of the Church are divine in their origin.  However, the Catechism is written by human beings; moreover, we are taught by parents, teachers, and preachers.

It may be that some people have simply learned what the Church teaches, which implies they have been taught the Church’s teachings are revealed by God, but they have never gone deeper.  By this I mean they have never “made it their own” by developing a life of prayer and seeking union with the Lord.  To know about Jesus, without the subjective experience of personally knowing Jesus, our faith remains merely an intellectual knowledge of the basic tenets of the Faith.

Many people are convinced that the dogmas of the Church are truth and they are determined to remain faithful to the truth.  However, our faith is not in a series of syllogisms or logical arguments; our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Intellectual knowledge of the faith is essential, but it is not enough.  Our knowledge must lead to a personal relationship with and a real love for our Lord.

Only when we have this kind of relationship with the Lord will we allow Him to work through us.  Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading today that we are the light of the world.  St. John tells us that Jesus is the light that came into the world and He is the light that enlightens every person who receives Him.  By ourselves we cannot produce any light.  If we are to be the light of the world, the light, Who is Jesus Christ, must radiate outward from within us.

The only way He can radiate from within is if He dwells within.  We have to open our hearts and allow Him in.  This can only take place through prayer.  The idea of allowing our Lord into our hearts sounds wonderful to us, but fear and an unwillingness to change cause many people to close their hearts.  We are afraid to be holy, we are afraid to let go of our sins and attachments, we are afraid to be like Jesus instead of being like everyone else. 

I have often pointed out to people that in the past life was hard for most people; therefore, faith was fairly easy.  People had to rely on God for their day-to-day existence.  Today, life has become relatively easy for most people, so God has allowed the faith to become more difficult.  We seem to think we can rely on ourselves, our material wealth or possessions, or our technology.  We seem to think we do not really need God for our daily existence. 

God is allowing the tragedy unfolding in the Church and in the world, in part, to test our faith.  If our faith is based on human wisdom, it will fail.  If it is based on the power of God and founded upon a strong prayer life, our faith will flourish in these times.  If we are to be the light of the world, as Jesus tells us we are to be, then our faith is not just about “me and Jesus” nor is it about white knuckling it through the problems and difficulties of life.

The first reading tells us to share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked, and refuse to turn our backs on our own.  Then, God says through Isaiah, our light will break forth like the dawn, our vindication will go before us, and the glory of God will be our rear guard.  Isaiah goes on to say that if we remove oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if we give bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for us in the darkness.

These works are the fruit of faith that shine with the Light of Christ and find their expression in charity.  These are the kinds of works the Lord wants to see in our lives, works that come from the heart and reveal the power and wisdom of God.

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