Tuesday April 24, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 4:32-37) Gospel (St. John 3:7-15)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord asks the question: "If you do not believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how will you believe when I tell you about the things of Heaven?" He goes on to link the Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit with His death. He talks about how the Son of Man must be lifted up from the earth so that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. Recall what the Catechism tells us: The Lord was actually lifted up from the earth on three occasions; first, when we crucified Him; second, at his Resurrection; and finally, at His Ascension. It is those who believe in Him, in His eternal life, in His earthly death but also in His life of Heaven, that will have eternal life as well.
When we recognize that, we can have the same attitude that the apostles and the early Christians did. Look at what happened, for instance, in the first reading. You have these people bringing all their earthly belongings, selling them or donating them, and laying them at the feet of the apostles. One could ask - "Why?" It is not because the Church does not think that property is good or that people have a right to it, because the Church does believe that. It is because these people recognized that they were called to something beyond what was earthly. They believed in what the Lord taught on the earthly realm; therefore, they believed what He taught on the heavenly realm.
When we see the wisdom of Our Lord, it is then that we can look beyond what is earthly and we can look to what is heavenly. What He teaches is truth; not merely truth on the natural plane, but truth on a supernatural plane. When they recognized that, they were able to say, "We do not have to worry about the things of earth. If we set our hearts and our minds and everything in our lives to focus on heaven, then we believe God will take care of everything else, too." And they lacked for nothing. Now, that does not mean that we should all go and sell everything we have and start a commune - let us all get together and do it that way - that is not what is meant at all. For the early Christians, that worked just fine; it was a very small community. What it does mean is that the attitude they had must be ours.
First of all, they were all of one heart and mind. Does that mean they agreed on absolutely everything? No, they were human. When it came to truth, they were in agreement. That is where we have to begin. We can look at the Creed and, even beyond that, at everything the Church teaches. We can ask ourselves, "Am I of one heart and one mind with Jesus Christ; and, therefore, with all of those who are in union with Christ?" If we are, then we can go to the next step and say, "If I am of one heart and mind with Jesus, then I want to set my heart and my mind on the things of Heaven." That is where His was set and that is where He directs us to look. Not to making sure that all the things of earth are in perfect order, but making sure that our soul is in perfect order, making sure that we are seeking Him, growing in the spiritual life, keeping our focus on eternity, and looking to Heaven. Then we see all the things of earth in light of the things of Heaven. That is the way it has to be.
In our society, Heaven is basically rejected and everything is focused on the things of earth. We make it our priority to make sure we make more money, or have a bigger house, or a nicer car; so that on the earthly plane, we have a paradise. That is not what Paradise is for a Christian person. Paradise is in Heaven. The things of earth are there because they are necessary for this life; but they also help to lead us toward Heaven, or away from it. We need to look at our attitude toward the things of earth and ask ourselves if our attitude is really the same as Jesus. Is our heart and mind set on the Lord? Are we of one heart and one mind with Jesus Christ? With the Church? If so, we look at the Son of Man who has been raised up above the earth. Therefore, we do not focus on the things of earth. In focusing on the One who has been raised up above the earth, we have the promise of eternal life.
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.