Monday April 30, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 6:8-15) Gospel (St. John 6:22-29)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear to us that we need to be working for food that lasts forever, for the food of eternal life. He tells us that we have to be doing the work of God. The primary work of God, He says, is to "have faith in the One the Father has sent"; to have faith in Jesus Christ. Now, to have faith in Christ does not simply mean to have this nice idea in the back of your head someplace: "Yeah, Jesus is the Messiah." That is faith, but that is not the virtue of faith. Faith requires not only the firm belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah, it goes beyond that. It requires belief in all the doctrines that He teaches, in all the things that are required: the moral teachings and the doctrinal teachings of the Church; all of that is part of faith. And it must be a firm belief.
We can see, for instance, this faith in action when we look at Stephen in the first reading. There were people bringing false accusations against him, he was before the Sanhedrin, and he knew that he was probably going to be in trouble because they were looking for people to make sport of. Yet, we are told that throughout all this his face seemed like that of an angel. It did not matter what the people said because he was focused on the Lord. He wasn’t worried so much about himself because he trusted completely that God would work in him. If that meant (as we will probably see tomorrow) that he would be killed, he was willing to do that. He was willing to accept it in peace. If it meant that God would speak through his mouth and bring forth wisdom, he would accept that. If it meant that God would allow him to stand there and make a fool of himself - stutter, stammer, say nothing, and have no defense - he would accept it. It did not matter to him about himself because his focus was on the Lord. That is the faith in action.
What we need to do, then, is look at ourselves. We can just ask: "Would we be doing the same thing? Would we have our focus and our heart on Jesus? If we are in trouble, do we maintain our interior peace because our focus is on the Lord? Or do we take our focus off the Lord and put it right back on ourselves?" We get worried, we get anxious, we get upset, and we sit around trying to devise ways of dealing with the situation, coming up with neat defenses for ourselves. Stephen just prayed and he trusted. He was seeking the bread of eternal life. He wasn’t seeking perishable food. He was not looking for anything of this world; he was looking at the next. We see how he handled it. His face seemed like that of an angel. It did not shake him because he was looking beyond what these men were trying to do to him.
So, in the midst of our struggles, what we need to do is put our faith into practice. It is obvious that faith is there, we would not be here at 6 o’clock in the morning if there was no faith; but the question is the depth of that faith. Is it just surface-level faith? Or is it a deep, profound faith? Or is it somewhere in between? That is, we are pretty good most of the time; but when God allows the right buttons to be pushed, we still get shaken up, we still lose that peace, we still get upset, we still look at ourselves, we get worried and anxious about what is going to happen. That is God’s way of trying to deepen things, of showing us that it is not perfect yet and that it needs to go deeper. That is the kind of faith we are looking for: To do the work of God in all times, in all things. The work of God is, ultimately, to have that perfect, complete, and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, whom the Father has sent.
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.