Sunday Sermon for September 8, 2019, the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Wis 9:13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25-33

In the first reading the question is asked: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  The author goes on to say: “the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”  By ourselves it is not possible to know what God intends.  Look around at what is happening in the Church and in the world.  Many people are either scandalized or have walked away because they cannot grasp the possibility that a loving God would allow the horrible things we have seen and experienced. 

The wise man goes on to point out that one can know the counsel of God because the Lord has given wisdom and sent the Holy Spirit from on high.  This, he tells us, makes straight the paths for us on earth.  With this in mind, we have to look beyond what we see on the surface and delve more deeply into what God has revealed to those who are inspired by the Holy Spirit to have insight into the ways of God. 

Although we do not have time or space to make a thorough examination of what the Scriptures tell us, we do know that St. Paul speaks of an apostasy that must happen before the man of lawlessness is revealed and tells us of those who would infiltrate to destroy the sheep of the Lord’s flock.  Jesus spoke of the situation that would occur prior to His second coming and said if the time were not shortened even the elect would be led astray.  Beyond that, we know the world will end, not because it has become so good, but because it has become so evil.

The Church has to be purified as does every member of the Church.  God has allowed the infidelity and the disgusting things that have been revealed to test us.  Each person must ask if he or she truly believes in the Lord and in His Church.  Each person must ask whether or not he or she will remain faithful to Jesus, no matter what happens.  Our Lord told us the gates of hell would not prevail.  This seems to imply that it might look like the evil one is winning for a time. 

As things continue to spiral downward we must each remember that the truth cannot change.  What the Church has declared infallibly is, therefore, unchangeable.  Jesus is God and is, therefore, unchangeable.  His presence in the Holy Eucharist is unchangeable.  In our fickleness we might think change or compromise is a good idea because it would make us more acceptable.  This is where the words of our Lord in the Gospel reading today must be applied to us.  We have to decide whether or not we have the resources to remain faithful. 

We need to look at it: we do not have the money to build the tower or the power to defeat the enemies of the Church and of our souls.  We do not have the resources or the ability to remain faithful on our own.  In the Gospel, however, our Lord did not say that the troops must decide; rather, the king must decide if he can defeat an army twice the size of his own army.

If this battle was on a natural level, we would be easily defeated.  Very few believe in the Real Presence, very few live according to the moral teachings of the Church.  Our army is very small.  Jesus called it a “little flock.”  However, the King is Christ and the leader of the opposition is Satan. 

We can look back at the sixth and seventh chapters of the Book of Judges.  God called Gideon to lead an army against the enemies of Israel.  When the men answered the call, God told Gideon there were too many men.  After those who were afraid left, there were still too many.  God gave them a test and only three hundred remained.  It was with these three hundred men that God defeated the enemy.  The soldiers had their part to do, but it was God who brought about the victory without a single Israelite having to lift a sword.

Now, we are like Onesimus, the runaway slave who was converted to the Faith by St. Paul.  Rather than allowing Onesimus to desert his master, St. Paul sent him back.  Of course, Onesimus could have run, but he chose to go back.  Each of us has a choice.  We have been given the Faith and we know our Master.  Now we have to choose whether or not we will serve Him, not with lip service, but with our whole hearts.  He will equip us with the resources we need to persevere and remain faithful in battle.  The battle is God’s; remain faithful to your King!

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