Monday May 7, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 11:1-18) Gospel (St. John 10:1-10)
Jesus tells us that He alone is the sheepgate. He is the gate through which the sheep can enter and find safety. In other words, He is the only means to Heaven, as He has told us before. This is what He means, ultimately, when He says that He has come that we might have life and have it to the full: We would be able to have eternal life - we would be able to share His life.
The wonderful thing for us, as Christian people, is that we do not only share His life when we get to Heaven, we share it already. Through Baptism, we have received the Holy Spirit, we have received grace. Grace is the very life of God. That is already in our souls if our mortal sins are all removed. Remember, there are only two possibilities: You are either in the state of mortal sin or you are in the state of grace. There is no in-between. We can have venial sins on our soul, but we are still in the state of grace if that is the case. It is one or the other. It is the state of mortal sin or it is the state of grace. If we are in the state of grace we share in Godís life. The Lord wants us not only to have this life, but He wants us to have it to the full. Notice, again, the generosity of God in this: He does not want just a little bit for us, He wants it all. He wants us to be so completely transformed into Himself that it is, literally, He who is living in us and through us. That is what He wants.
It starts out small, just as with the apostles. For instance, when the Gentiles first believed and the Holy Spirit came down upon them, it totally startled the apostles. They did not expect this because early Christianity was first a sect of Judaism. They did not expect that they would have anything to do with the Gentiles. Even though the Lord had told them this is what they would have to do, they did not understand. When they saw that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, they recognized that they, too, had received life. So, they rejoiced in that and then began the preaching effort even to the Gentiles. But as it had to be with the disciples, even though they had the Holy Spirit already from Pentecost, you can see the gradual growth: the growth of understanding, the growth of holiness, the growth of union with Christ.
So it is with us. The growth is going to be gradual. It is never at its fullness in this world, in the sense that it can always be more. Every single day, the amount of grace within our soul can grow. Our union with Christ can grow deeper and more profound every day. We need to remember: It never, ever stays the same - it either grows or it diminishes. One or the other. If we are not moving ahead, that means we are going backwards. We need to keep forging ahead. We can never be satisfied thinking, "I have done enough. My relationship with the Lord is in great shape. I do not have to work at it anymore." Never. Always we want to love God more. The more we love Him, the more He will be able to love us because we open our hearts more fully. Godís love is infinite, He is always loving us completely but our ability to receive His love is finite. Consequently, the more we can open our hearts, the more we can receive the love He wants to give to us. That is what this is about: life to the full. God does not want to pour an infinite amount of love so it can trickle into our hearts. He wants to pour an infinite amount of love so it can fill our hearts to overflowing and we can share His life, in this world and the next. And not just a little foreshadowing of it, but He wants us to have His life to the full.
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.