Friday April 6, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Lent
Reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) Gospel (St. John 10:31-42)
In the Gospel reading today, it is made very clear that the people of the time understood very well what Jesus was saying: that He was God. They didnít understand that He was indeed God, so He turned the phrase on them and said, "Well, the psalms say Ďyou are all godsí." They didnít know what to do with that. But they did understand that what He was saying was: He is God. They wanted to stone Him because of blasphemy and they said, "There is only one God. If you are making yourself equal to God, you are saying that you are God." They understood clearly there was only one God. Of course, they did not understand the Trinity. So, they could not accept the fact that He was indeed God. This is what the problem was all about.
At the same time, we see the way the Lord deals with the situation. He simply presents the truth to them and says, "Even if you donít want to believe in Me, how can you deny the works? Look at what it is that I have done." But they did not want to accept that either. The amazing thing St. John shows us is that He goes out to where St. John the Baptist was preaching. We recall that the Pharisees and Scribes had sent people out to St. John the Baptist saying, "Are you the one?" He had not performed any works. Yet, they were convinced that he might be the Messiah. And here you have Our Lord who has fulfilled everything that was necessary and they didnít believe in any of it.
What we need to see is that humanness; that human weakness that lies in all of us. Sometimes, it doesnít matter what evidence is there, we are not going to believe it if we already have a preconceived idea of what something is supposed to be. We all need to turn to God, and let Him show us what the truth is; rather than trying to tell the Lord what the truth might be. Otherwise, we become just like these people in the Gospel. They are the ones that Jeremiah is talking about. He says, "Even those, who were my friends, are on the watch for any misstep of mine." It gets to the point where people think that you have just lost it. They pull away from you and they start looking for anything you might do wrong.
But sometimes, if we are struggling in faith, we do the exact same thing to Jesus. All the evidence is there. But one of the things that happens is: the Gospel writers (by divine inspiration) will put things into the Gospels that will sow little seeds of doubt in our minds. Then we begin to wonder. People will say, "Well, didnít He do this? Didnít He say that? How can we claim that He is God, look what He did here or there?" So, you have all this overwhelming evidence. And the devil is very shrewd. He will take that one thing that he can twist and take out of context and that is the one thing somebody will grab onto.
It is exactly what Jeremiah is talking about. Itís not just about the people looking for any misstep saying, "Let us denounce him! It says he will be trapped and then we can take our vengeance on him." It is about us too. If our faith is not absolutely rock-solid, the devil, in his subtlety, can sow a little seed in there. Just that one, little, tiny seed can begin to fester within us. It can begin to sow some doubts and undermine our faith. It is absolutely necessary for us, who are the friends of the Lord, to make sure that we are not looking for any misstep but rather that we are simply placing our faith entirely in Him, entertaining no doubt.
That is the struggle for us. We want to say, "Oh, Iím not doubting the Lord." But I think for most of us, if we were absolutely honest with ourselves, would say that there probably is a little bit of doubt in there. We donít trust the Lord fully. We arenít completely 100% convinced. If that is the case, we need to keep going deeper. Most of us will be comfortable saying, "Well, you know, 80%, thatís pretty good. I can still hang onto that 20% Iím not positive about. But just in case, that leaves me a little wiggle room." No, with Jesus, there is no room for that. Itís all or nothing. When you stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, itís not going to be enough to say, "Well, didnít I believe mostly in You? Didnít I have a lot of faith? Wasnít 80% good enough, Lord?" No, itís all or nothing. Nobody is going to get into Heaven on 80%. We need to give our hearts entirely to Him.
When we struggle with that, it is because we realize that we donít completely believe. We are still entertaining a thought that maybe there is a misstep in there somewhere. There are no missteps in Jesus Christ. He is the only One. For our part, we, who want to claim we are friends of the Lord, have to make a choice. Are we really going to be His friend, or are we not? If we are, we cannot be looking for anything that is going to be a misstep. Rather, we put our faith 100% in Him, trust in the One whom the Father has sent, and give ourselves whole-heartedly - in faith, hope, and charity - to Him.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.