I like science fiction, specifically books and movies that deal with space travel and space exploration. The thought of traveling to other planets and other galaxies fascinates me. Our universe is so vast, and the distances are so great that the possibility of we humans ever experiencing interplanetary space travel still lies in the realm of science fiction. But the idea fascinates me; if only to answer that ultimate question. Is anyone else out there? Science is constantly striving to answer that question, searching for evidence of alien intelligence. For now that possibility is still just pure science fiction.
But I am going to make a statement that will sound disturbing, and may make me sound like a nut. But don’t tune me out till you give me an opportunity to explain the statement. I am here to tell you that aliens do exist and they have not only visited our planet in the past, they invaded it and they live among us to this very day. And their presence has greatly influenced our human behavior and our history. That sounds disturbing, doesn’t it! Allow me to explain!
Consider for a moment the truths revealed to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that our ultimate home is not here. Jesus revealed to us the fact that our ultimate home lies beyond our physical reality. Our true home is in another Kingdom called Heaven. And He said that this Kingdom is ruled by His Father, our God. In describing this Kingdom, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going there to prepare a place for you, and then I will come back and take you to be with me that where I am you also may be.” (Jn. 14:2-3)
The Bible makes it clear that this Kingdom, or Heaven our ultimate home, is ruled by the Spirit of God. The Bible also reminds us that God is Love, (1 Jn. 4:14) so the spirit that rules Heaven is the spirit of love. Genesis 1:26 says that mankind was created in the image and likeness of God. That means that it is in our nature to be like God, good and loving and wanting to be loved.
The Bible also tells us that there was, at one time, a heavenly being whose spirit opposed the spirit of our Heavenly Father. We are also told that this heavenly being had a following of other heavenly beings. And the Bible tells us that for his evil rebellion he was driven out of that Kingdom. The Book of Revelations tells us that “He was hurled down to earth and his minions with him.” (Rev.12:9) Jesus said “I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.” (Lk.10:18)
I have always wondered why. With all the other worlds that exist within the universe, why were Satan and his minions cast down to earth. Why wasn’t he sent to the other side of the universe? Why here? Someday when I reach our ultimate Heavenly home that is going to be my first question. But suffice to say, we have an alien presence here, living among us; an alien whose evil presence has contaminated the very nature of our earthly home. This evil is alive and well on this planet. And you can see evidence of that presence every single day, throughout all of human history.
The scripture readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time tell us how to deal with this reality, providing us insights for living with this evil presence, but also how we are to deal with those who fall victim to their influence and what responsibility we have for those victims. These readings also remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.
For example, in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (13:8-10) the Apostle cautions us to not fall victim to this alien influence but rather to remain faithful to the spirit of Love in whose image we were created. These three short verses are a very small part of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. But in the preceding verses, Paul tells his readers that our love must go beyond just our Christian brothers and sisters and extend to all of our neighbors. And Paul says that our love must manifest itself through our behavior. For example, in these verses we hear Paul say, “Owe nothing to anyone”. But in the verses immediately preceding these, Paul tells his readers to pay those to whom you owe dues, including your taxes. In other words, our love for our fellow man must manifest itself through our just and moral behavior.
Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel (33:7-9) tells us that when we see a neighbor fall victim to this evil alien influence, we have a responsibility to try to save that individual. He says we have a moral responsibility to try to lead him or her from their wicked ways. The spirit of love that guides and motivates our own behavior demands that response from us. He says that if we try to save that individual and they choose to ignore us, then it is not our fault. But he cautions us by saying that if we do nothing, and simply let that person fall, then God will hold us responsible for their loss.
In Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20), Jesus speaks directly to this issue. Jesus is seen giving His disciples instructions on the appropriate steps to be taken in dealing with those who have fallen victim to this alien influence, speifically on how they are to treat a sinner. Note what Jesus is saying. He is very specific. Jesus is speaking to all those who belong to the family of God, in other words those who are members of the Church. And He says that those who belong to His Church have a moral responsibility to treat sinners with respect. And just like the instructions given by the prophet Ezekiel, Jesus says that members of His Church have a moral responsibility to try to save the fallen. To lead them to repentance! But if they are unsuccessful, if it is the sinner’s preference to remain lost to this alien influence, then we are to avoid the unrepentant sinner.
Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave Peter the power to forgive sins. Jesus said, “I entrust to you, Peter, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is granting that same power to His disciples.
But take special notice of the last two verses of today’s Gospel, for in those verses Jesus assures us that we are not alone in our struggles. He said that if just two of you agree in prayer about anything, My Heavenly Father will hear you. And He says, “You are never alone, for when you gather together in My Name, I am there in the midst of you.”
We were all created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, it is in our very nature to be good and loving and wanting to be loved in return. Even the scientific community acknowledges this fundamental human instinct. From a purely psychological perspective, we need to be loved, to feel love and not rejection. This basic motivation runs deep, they say, and it is hard wired into our primal core instincts. We need to be loved and not rejected. This basic human emotion is almost like a survival instinct. For if we are loved and not rejected, then we know we will survive. But if we feel left out and rejected by the group, then we feel threatened, like our very survival is threatened. This is basic human psychology.
We are to love one another. It is our very nature to do so. Any human behavior that is contrary to that very basic human instinct is alien to who we are as a child of God. Therefore, as long as we live on this planet we are committed to opposing the alien influence that lives among us. But remember, we are never alone in our struggle. Jesus said, “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:20)