Robert Barron | – The Worst of Religion, the Best of Religion — Bishop Barron’s Sunday Sermon

Friends, there is a beautiful side to religion: it reveals profound truth, it speaks prophetically to the wider culture, and it teaches about God. But there is a brutal side too: it can make you hateful toward enemies, it can fill you with rage, and it can give rise to violence. When we feel the temptation to engage in this shadowy side of religion, we must instead listen to the tiny whispering voice of God revealed in compassion and love.

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About The Author

Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at

Comment (44)

  1. Please read for yourself. I do not see, that God finds any fault with Elijah.
    Also, you state, Elijah put away 450 of his rivals, making it sound like these were just unfriendly people. These rivals were worshipers of Baal. The enemies of God. Also, these enemies were put away by others also. (A mob)
    Why was their no answer in the wind, lightning etc, ? In that time, who was it believed, who controlled these things. Baal.
    When God told Elijah, that Elisha would succeed him as prophet, Elisha followed Elijah’s way.
    God was not displeased with Elijah, Elijah was worn.

    Carolyn M Scotti

  2. You have wonderful sermons, Your Excellency. I would ask that you wear your cross so people can see it and meditate on it. It seems to me that when you have talks that are not your sermons, you have the cross in your pocket. This is a beautiful cross and I feel it needs to be seen at all times. I know it may not be the case but when I see the cross tucked into your pocket, you are ashamed of it. Please expose it all the time, not just some of the time. Thanks from a Secular Franciscan, Nancy McCleary OFS

  3. Thank you Bishop Baron for this. I'm not sure I agree about Elijah's being punished here since he does get to go into retirement on a fiery chariot. But I think you do highlight the fact that the interpretation of Scripture is not altogether simple or straightforward, and that some stories are told precisely to disapprove of the behavior. A story may be told as a cautionary tale like Jeptha sacrificing his daughter to fulfill an ill-sworn oath. Or Lot's daughters getting him drunk in order to beget children by him. These stories are, I think, meant to explain a particular custom, in the former case, or the shameful origin of certain tribes/nations of ancient Israel's neighbors, in the latter. But your overall point is a good one: don't let your zeal for God lead you to sin. It seems rather timely.

    BTW – I thought these sermons would be directed to people on the peripheries.

  4. I really think the perfect way to fix all weird parts of the Psalms and the Bible is bringing it to an interior and spiritual dimension. For example the Baal prophets are our compromises with the lack of Charity while Elijah is our desire for a Pure Offering. And later our Pure Offering is persecuted by the weakness of the Flesh and the hatred of the Devil, which manifests in the World, that is, concrete circumstances. As it is written:

    "5 If
    anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and devours
    their enemies. In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be
    6 They have the power
    to close up the sky so that no rain can fall during the time of their
    prophesying. They also have power to turn water into blood and to
    afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.

    7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them.
    8 Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,” where indeed their Lord was crucified."Revelation 11

  5. I'd like guidance on whether this is a good interpretation, but when Elijah didn't see God in the natural disasters, it made me think about people believing God is behind natural (or unnatural) disasters today, like the huge explosion in Lebonon for instance. I know that explosion wasn't natural, but I believe there are "christians" who would think that was God's will. same with all the chaos with rioting and whatnot. Do you think the fact that God wasn't in the natural disasters might say something about God not being behind what some would call evil events?

  6. You got it right. Most people celebrate Elijah's murder of the prophets of Baal. They don't pay attention to his very own prayer, 1Kings18:37'Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.' He asks for the hearts of the crowd to be turned back. Asks them how long they will waver between two opinions. Then, even after the crowd exclaims that The Lord is God, he rashly orders them slaughtered.
    After, again, he asks to be relieved and put to rest. He just keeps getting what he's asking for. Elisha unfortunately gets a double portion of this and loses his own patience with the young men that mocked him soon after.

    It would be good for people to notice the mistakes of men and not attribute them to God.

  7. Thank you, Bishop, for another inspiring glimpse into the fruits of scripture. I always appreciate your rationalistic approach – no doubt enhanced by many different lenses of reading – which reveals the beautiful layers of our holy texts. I truly believe God brought me to your channel that I might come to understand things which were once beyond my grasp. As a former Christian turned atheist turned Satanist, now saved once more by the God of my life and Redeemer of all mankind, I think you're doing an excellent job with your evangelism. Truly, the Lord has blessed you with the gifts of wisdom and understanding, and I pray you'll continue in this path to be the servant God so clearly intended you to be. I'm personally looking forward to starting RCIA next month. Yes, it's people like you that turned a former Protestant turned atheist turned left-hand path occultist into a Catholic! Glory to God, always. His love endures forever, and I can always find Him in the tiny voice of my heart and soul. Good tidings and blessings to you! Thanks for sharing the good news with wretches like me.

  8. Thank you Bishop Barron, i'll try to get preach and be company unless by year and like Saint Joseph and his brothers for me see someone dying in dreams is cause is saying good bye is like our last despite, cause maybe i help them or i wish them the best with Jesús Christ, and they maybe was too much sick or his body can't support nothing else without food ever people cause i love them despite of me, people ever is thank you. Like Jesús Christ said who being bad if his son ask for a bread give to him a stone. No body, but for this reason we must to try love us one to eachothers. Thinking good.

  9. Thank you for this sermon. The two sides of religion really did open my eyes to my own behavior towards
    some of my acquaintances and friends who have and show no interest in the Lord. It usually brings out the worst
    in my thinking process. I will keep this sermon close to my heart.

  10. Very interesting interpretation! I never would have thought of it that way. It makes a lot of sense though. Whenever we take matters into our own hands and put ourselves above God, it all comes crashing down on us and we are humbled. Elijah may have needed to be humbled since he took matters into his own hands when he killed those priests. I can certainly understand why Elijah felt he was justified, but it took a small, whispering voice to touch his soul and make him realize what he did was wrong.
    Luke 14:11
    [11]Because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

  11. When I was attending a church youth group in high school, the youth pastor noted that Elijah, right before this passage that is the 1st reading, complains to God about how frustrated he is, noting that he is the only prophet left loyal to God. Then, the youth pastor pointed out that God was being tender and compassionate by concluding his service as prophet and telling him to anoint Elisha as successor. Your take is much different in saying God fired him.

  12. Very thought provoking message. Listening to it it came to mind God has been showing his power over these past several days.This past Sunday August 9th the very day this reading from the Book of Kings is proclaimed there is an earthquake in North Carolina.Aftet that the early part of this week very strong damaging deathly wind storm tears across several states leaving a lot of damage and some death behind.God was defintely showing his almighty powers is small voice saying in the midst of these if today you hear my voice harden not your heart.Telling us in these events we are not in control of things God is.There is numerous things being done in our world in which man is trying to be God be it a false God in their life.We have been seeing man changing God's natural law of marriage he created between a man and woman to now between two men or two women.Man has took it upon themselves to recreate their sexuality God made of a given sex for a reason man or a woman.Today with transgender ones are taken upon themselves to change their sex. The protests this spring was suppose to be uphold the taken of a person's life wrongfully then it is taking to destroy people's businesses burn buildings,kill others including innocent children killed in cross fire during the protests.I an sure some of these in the protests claim to be christian standing up for life wrongfully taken is good but then it is taken to the level of bad religion with all the additional destructive behavior and killing of innocent lives.As has been seen this past week with an earthquake this past Sunday in Carolina strong wind storms God is showing mankind is almighty power is small voice in the midst saying hey I am in control I am the Lord God and I cannot allow these things against my will and how I created ones and breaking of my commandments to go unpunished.God's power is being shown in the church during this virus situation religion is to bring people to God help nourish their faith help them to grow to become the people God made them to be but with the sexual abuse in the church destroying young innocent people's lives subjecting them to who knows what sicken things God allowed through the virus to show his power by churches being closed that he cannot let this sexual abuse and other corrupt things in the church to go unpunished.That are religious freedoms can be taken away in a snap of a finger.In the chaos of 2020 God is showing his power he is in control and the small voice is saying I love you but I cannot let things going on against me to go unpunished,U live you I want society to repent and change their lives and ways and come back to me stop serving false gods and allowing satan to do his evil deeds.

  13. What s beaitiful sermon, I feel in our current time is truly needed. Just because we disagree with our neighbor, that doesn't mean we must destroy them or be cruel to them. Jesus taught, "Love your enemies, be kind to them who hate you." This is the way our religion should be taught.

  14. For all those people who think its unfair for Elijah. May be you don’t need context for that. I think what we can see here is what God trying to show Elijah. We know that God is powerful above all. But here God is not showing His power in the things what we see as powerful (earthquake, fire, wind) unlike Elijah who is trying to show his power over people. Every powerful thing passed, God didn’t manifest Himself but there is gentle, calm, comforting breeze in which God manifested Himself to Elijah. Even though God is powerful God does not show His power on His people because He is merciful, loving compassionate and every good thing.
    God may be like “sigh! What has just happened!! Its a mess… okay Elijah but not okay Elijah for sometime i might have to take you away while i try to fix things and show you what i really want..” then we see him again at the time of transfiguration of Jesus, Moses too was there, they were talking actually in a holy place. Three disciples were also there. It was about showing to them and disciples what kind of Messiah Jesus was going to be . We know He is a sufferring, compassionate, loving, patient meek humble Messiah. Then Moses and Elijah must have realised
    Edit: i think God was being sarcastic to Elijah when He asked him: “what are you doing Elijah” like how he asked Adam “where are you Adam”

  15. Maybe Elijah was at fault to massacre the other priests, yet, only the priests of Ba'al which meant Satan worship. Wasn't King Saul supposed to kill all their enemies to the last one and including King Agag and their animals? Like going to the limit of sin and removing it entirely, didn't Samuel also completely slaughter all of them.

    What I think we moderns are missing is the revenge that often comes when anyone is left to survive. The godless people in Noah's day were all destroyed, then again, in Sodom and Gamorah, with Moses, many were destroyed by God for the ones who followed false gods live for vengeance upon their enemiies and destroyed lives through exploitation and sacrifice of the innocent and they may return maybe even generations later to do exactly that. This generational quest for vengeance, Sociologists have observed occured in places like the Romanian, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Russian and German regions and elsewhere. So, for this reason, we might see why the "evil" ones, maybe, would have had to be killed to the last one because they are your worst enemy as a neighbor.

    Yet, through understanding the Scriptures we recognize that there is sin in everyone and in all, there is beauty, good, truth. Christ finally gives humanity a better way, the hope of overcoming sin if He is followed. Victory over vengeance and excessive exploitation of others is being taught in love of neighbor and love of enemy. To every thing, there is a season… and a time to every purpose. Maybe, there was a reason that makes no sense in our time because we look back before the time of Christ through the lense of Christianity's influence.

  16. A very good teaching. Ahab not only sold himself to the Baal's he went and married a woman whose religion was pagan. Let us not forget that Elijah went through a period of prayer and fasting before he performed the miracle on Mt. Carmel and then once he had demonstrated God's power he ran into the wilderness of Sinai in fear for his life. It is only after this that God revealed His true nature on Mt. Hermon. Yes, God can do a miracle (easily) but He speaks to us in a whisper! Not just 450 those were the prophets of Baal but there were also 400 who served Jezebel in Samaria.