12 October 2012

The promise of the Spirit through faith

27th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

With a black or white/do or die rhetorical flourish, our Lord lays out an austere choice for those who hear the Good News: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” In case the choice before us isn't clear enough, let me break it down for you. If you are with the Lord, you gather with him. If you are against the Lord, you scatter away from him. What causes Jesus to present us with such a stark choice? The Pharisees accuse Jesus of exorcising demons in the name of Beelzebub, implying that the Lord is a demonic agent. Jesus makes the logical objection: why would Beelzebub send me to expel his demons? “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.” It makes no sense to say that Satan wants his angels exorcised. How could his kingdom stand? Apply this logic to the Church: can those who gather with Christ stand against the devil's offensive if our forces are divided? Though Christ has already won his final victory over sin and death on the cross, we are not yet living with him in eternity. While we remain in this world, the struggle against sin and death demands from us a unity of heart and mind, an allegiance to the center of our faith: Christ Jesus. 

While the kingdom of Satan maintains its unity through pride and deceit, the Kingdom of God holds us together in humility through faith. We know that Christ became sin for us and died for us on the cross. Why? So “that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles. . .that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Any obligation that we might have had under the Law—whether a duty to sacrifice or a punishment for sin—has been fulfilled by Christ on the cross. By fulfilling all of our religious obligations under the Law, Christ made it possible for us to receive the blessing that God gave to Abraham. How do we receive this blessing? We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. In other words, by our persistent and determined trust in God through Christ, we receive as a gift all of the promises made to our ancestors in faith. Paul writes, “Realize that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham.” All of us here—Gentiles all—are members of the tribe of Abraham in virtue of our faith in Christ. And it is this good habit of trusting in Christ that gathers us to him and keeps us gathered with him when the forces of darkness attack. Our spiritual survival as individuals and as a family depends on our faith, solely on our faith. 

While we remain in this world, our struggle against sin and death demands a unity of heart and mind in faith, a single purpose and a single plan. If the heart of the Church is divided against itself, then her purpose is divided as well. If the mind of the Church is divided against itself, then her plan is divided as well. What is the purpose of the Church? The Church has no other purpose than to be the sacrament of salvation for all God's children, to signify and make present the mercy of God in the world. What's the plan? To preach and teach the Good News as it has been handed on by the apostles; to celebrate the sacraments diligently; and to do good works in the world for the greater glory of God. Christ Jesus dwells at the heart of the Church and occupies her mind; therefore, he directs her purpose and governs her plan. If we will gather with him, we will throw ourselves into the work of his Church, trusting absolutely in the Father's covenant-promises, healing our divisions. Discord, deceit, dissension are the demonic agents of that other kingdom. Our faith is in the name of the Lord. 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->


  1. Hmmm...there were many good points here, and many places where I had to stop and think, and at least one statement about which I still have questions of the theological/philosophical kind. I had a little trouble following in a couple of places and I wasn't really taken with the very end: the message was great, but I would be willing to bet this worked better spoken - which is as it should be.

    Could you stop making me work so hard on a Friday afternoon!! ;-)

    1. This is one of those that I printed out, thinking, "This ain't half bad." It didn't preach well. Not sure why. The second paragraph got a little too "theological," I think. Oh well. Live and learn.

      Thinking on a Friday afternoon??? Welcome to my world!