Monday May 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 14:5-18) Gospel (St. John 14:21-26)
This homily was given at a retreat in Wyoming.
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us something of extreme importance. He tells us that the word that He preaches is not His own, but rather it is the word of His Father. He also follows up by telling us that He will send the Holy Spirit to remind us of everything He preached and to lead us into all truth. We see first of all the revelation once again of the Trinity, which is the central belief for Christian people. Without belief in the Trinity, one cannot call themselves a Christian. That is primary; that is the first thing that separates us as Christian people: the belief in the Most Holy Trinity. So we see that revealed today.
We hear from Our Lord that the words that He speaks are not His own. We have heard that several times over the last couple of weeks if we go back over the readings. He tells us that the words that He speaks are the words of His Father and therefore, anyone who accepts Him accepts the One who sent Him. Today He says, "Anyone who loves Me, my Father will love him, and we will love the Father." We see that by loving Him, we love the Father. People get confused about this all the time. These are some of the most common questions that I hear: "Is it okay if I pray to the Holy Spirit?" "Is it okay if I pray to the Father?" "What if I just pray to Jesus but I do not pray to the Holy Spirit or the Father?" They ask all these different combinations. We have to realize that if you pray to one, you are praying to all, because there is only one God, and they all share the same nature. There are three Persons, but only one God. We cannot separate them in the sense of suggesting that if I pray to Jesus somehow I am taking something away from the Father, or that I am ignoring the Holy Spirit if I am only praying to the Lord, not at all. If we pray to one, we are praying to God. It does not matter whether that is God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit, we are praying to God.
We need to turn to Them. We need to make sure we keep our heart focused on Them. The way to do that, Jesus tells us, is to follow His commandments. We will hear more about that over the next few days as we enter into the retreat and we hear about the Beatitudes and all the different things that Our Lord has taught us. We need to start with that realization that loving God is not about having nice feelings about God. It is not a matter of what happens in the heart while we were praying, or what we happen to be thinking about, or whether we got distracted. Loving God means to follow His commandments. Part of that is to pray; part of that is to suffer with Him; part of that is to live the life that He has taught us. It is all of these different things and in fact He tells us that He gives us a new commandment, which is to love. Yet, how do we love is the real question. All we need to do is look at a crucifix because Jesus has told us to love as He has loved us. That is where He has shown His love perfectly. We need to lay down our lives for our friends the Lord told us. That does not necessarily mean we have to die literally, it means we have to die to ourselves. We have to pour ourselves out for the sake of others. That is what Jesus did for us and what we need to do for others.
The important thing in all of this is that we realize that we are not the center of things. Our society tries to teach us that. It has given into some of the principles that the Communists have presented. It is holding up the individual as the most important element of all of society and everything revolves around the individual. That is nonsense. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with that. People came and wanted to sacrifice to them because they saw someone healed. They thought that Paul worked the healing. It was the Lord who worked the healing and that was what they tried to help them to understand. They said, "No, we are just human beings like you." We see that several times in the New Testament. Remember in Revelation when the Angel appears to St. John and he falls on his face and the Angel says, "Get up, I am just a creature like you. Do not worship me, I am not God." We too need to realize that. It is a very subtle way that our society presents it to us. It basically tells us the same lie Satan told that, "You will be God." You will be gods. We need to reject that, because there is only one God and we are not Him. Praise Him for that. We need to make sure that we keep everything straight in our minds. If that is the case, then God is the top priority in our lives.
Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength. It means to make God number one. It means to make sure that our prayer life is the top priority and that we are seeking God in all that we do. It means seeking to serve Him and the people around us in the way that we live, the way that we act and the way that we speak. These are the things that we have to do. That is what we will be meditating on over the next few days as we look at the Beatitudes. Our Lord presents to us the outlines of the Christian life. Keep this always at the back of your mind as we work through the retreat that we need to be seeing God. We need to be looking at Him first. If we are going to love Him, we need to do His will. We need to keep His command; that is to love God first and foremost and then to love our neighbor as ourselves.
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.