Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily – March 24, 2022
3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, Year C
Readings: Jer 7:23-28; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Gospel Lk 11:14-23
Theme: Who Ever is Not Against You, is For You
There is no neutral position in God’s kingdom. Jesus says, “whoever is not with me is against me.” Jesus is clearly making the case in today’s Gospel that the lesson is black and white. There is no neutral or grey ground. You either believe Jesus is God’s Son and therefore God Himself, or you do not.
For many people today, they just are not convinced of this, yet they say they believe in some kind of higher power or deity and want to just live a good life and not one ruled by one person, like Jesus. They want to play the fence, not pick a side or upset anyone because of their position. They have to be politically correct and therefore cannot pick a side. While this position may have a place in society for certain aspects of human behavior and tolerance it has no place when it comes to Jesus and our creator.
In fact, Jesus warned against taking this neutral position with regard to God in Revelations 3:15-16 where He wishes that we were either hot or cold but not lukewarm. Jesus’s statement about hot and cold are meant as good behaviors that point directly to Jesus, while lukewarm means to be scattered and pointing nowhere. If you are not with Jesus, you are against Him, period.
Now the above statement, although true, may seem harsh and divisive if taken at face value. We may be tempted to say that only certain people of a certain faith are on Jesus’s side and going to heaven while all others are not and are going to hell. That would be a dangerous and incorrect position to take. Like everything dealing with Jesus’s love for us, there is a deeper explanation to being with Jesus or against Him. For example, let’s look at Lk 9:49-50. The disciples saw someone who was not part of their group casting out demons in Jesus’s name and they tried to prevent him, but Jesus said, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Historians and theologians all agree that salvation history came to light with God and the Hebrew people, through all the patriarchs and prophets, through King David, and finally to Jesus. Jesus then brought all peoples of the world under His umbrella. In ordaining Peter as the first leader of the universal or “catholic” faith, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ came to be. As the first pope of Christianity, Jesus set Peter and the Catholic Church in motion of which the gates of hell will never prevail. Unfortunately, through human pride and self-righteousness within the Church, from the roots of Catholicism came all other Christian faiths, our Protestant brothers and sisters.
As Catholics, we may want to think we are the only ones on Jesus’s side. But that would be an errant statement. Jesus said, if they are not against you, they are for you. The fullness of truth does lie in the Catholic Church but that doesn’t mean that other faiths do not have parts or most of that same truth, and therefore, are not on Jesus’s side. The same can be said for those who are ignorant, for many reasons, of Jesus yet have a desire for him in their hearts. Together all of us join Jesus on His side and together we can defend ourselves against a strong enemy such as the devil. Together we can support each other on our journey to heaven. We must continue to pray that someday all of humanity will be under one roof in love of God.
So, strive to educate yourself in the faith, lose any arrogance, and find the common ground that makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not be afraid to understand other people, and where they are at in regard to Jesus and His teachings. Help them to come to know Jesus in a more profound way and know, as the disciples were taught, that if they are not against you, they are for you!