Do We Really Believe He is God?
Saturday May 5, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 9:31-42) Gospel (St. John 6:60-69)
In the first reading, we heard it said of the early church: "It was being built up and was making steady progress in the fear of the Lord." That point about the fear of the Lord is something we need to look at very seriously in our day and in our own lives. Fear of the Lord is not a matter of quaking in fear in the presence of the Lord. But rather, fear of the Lord is that we do not want to offend Him; that we, out of love for God, would be afraid that we would violate our relationship with Him. We can see that the ultimate violation is going to be a refusal to believe in the Lord. So, the fear of the Lord begins with the belief in Jesus Christ. Can we say, with Saint Peter, "We have come to believe and we are convinced that You are the Son of God, You are the Holy One of the Lord"? If we are going to say that, then we have to be able say, "If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then every single word He speaks is the Word of God. It is truth. Therefore, I believe firmly, without doubt or hesitation, in every single word spoken by Jesus Christ."
This becomes critically important for us because today, in the Gospel reading, we have a couple of very interesting verses. We see the disciples of Our Lord; these are not the people who hated Him and did not want Him, these were the followers of Our Lord - the wider body of followers, not just the twelve. We know, for instance, that at an earlier time He had sent 72 disciples out on a mission; sending them, two by two, to all the places He intended to go. Today, we hear about that wider body. They were murmuring against the Lord which is a very interesting and important word because it is the exact same word that, in Hebrew, is spoken about the people of Israel out in the desert when they were disgusted with the wretched food, with the manna God gave them, as they told Moses. Jesus, in Saint Johnís Gospel (which is where todayís passage came from), had already talked about the manna in the desert and that God would give them the true manna which was sent from Heaven: the Bread of Life; which is His own Body and Blood, so that we could feed upon Him. The disciples murmured. They were disgusted with what Jesus had said. They could not accept that we would actually have to eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus Christ if we were going to have life so they said, "This kind of talk is hard to listen to. Who can endure it?"
Are there not many, many, many who call themselves Christians and say the exact same thing? They refuse to believe in the True and Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, that comes very close to home for us, too. We really do not truly believe that He is there. At least, we do not act like it sometimes. If Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament, that means God is with us. We need to act with the greatest reverence and respect. They way we receive Him must be with the greatest reverence and respect. We need to prepare ourselves well to receive Holy Communion. We need to make a thanksgiving after Holy Communion. God is truly present within us. The absolutely unthinkable happens every single time we receive Holy Communion, something that we would never have the audacity to ask for or even imagine: God Himself would be present under the form of bread and wine, and He would come to reside in our hearts. That is what His disciples could not accept.
In the verse that I call the "diabolical verse", John 6:66, it says: "And they walked with Him no longer." In the translation we had today, it says simply: "They broke away from Him and would not remain in His company any longer." The diabolical verse: They walked away from Jesus because of His teaching on the Eucharist. But that is not all. Today, we also see the reason Judas betrayed Jesus. Have you ever wondered why Judas betrayed Our Lord? Saint John tells us why, twice. We see it in verse 64 and if you go home and read verse 72, you are going to find the exact same thing. It is because of the Eucharist. It says right here: "Jesus knew from the start the ones who would refuse to believe and the one who would hand Him over." Right in the context of the teaching on the Eucharist, we hear about the reason Judas betrayed Jesus. Look a little further in Saint Johnís Gospel and just ask yourself, "At what moment did Judas actually betray the Lord?" Jesus took the morsel, dipped it in the dish, and gave it to Judas. At the moment Judas received Holy Communion, he got up and left. Saint John says in a beautifully enigmatic way: "And it was dark." Satan entered his heart and it was dark at the moment he received Holy Communion because he refused to believe.
We need to look at that. We need to look deeply into our own hearts. Not to ask ourselves, "Do I merely believe in the head? Do I know, because this is what the Church teaches and, therefore, I accept?" But "Does it affect my life? Does it change me to go before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer? Do I want to be with Jesus?" How often do we come to Him? If Jesus is present right here in the tabernacle, why is the church empty most of the day? The Blessed Sacrament was exposed all day yesterday. I came down here in the morning and there were two people. Why is nobody here with the Lord ... if the Lord is here with us? Do we really believe? I mean, really believe that Jesus Christ is God. "We have come to believe that You are Godís Holy One." Do we believe that? Do we believe in His teaching about the Eucharist? Do we act upon that? Does it change our lives? Does it affect us at the very core of our being? Or are we afraid to allow that to happen? If we are afraid, which most of us are, that is the wrong kind of fear of the Lord; that is servile fear. Filial fear of the Lord would get us here and put us down on our knees and we will worship Him because we believe that He is Godís Holy One.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.