Wednesday May 16, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:1-6) Gospel (St. John 15:1-8)
This homily was given at a retreat in Wyoming.
In the Gospel reading today, our Lord tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing. It is important to be able to see this and understand it because we think often times that there is much that we can do. Then when we get ourselves into trouble and we realize we cannot do it, then we turn to our Lord. But He is telling us something entirely different. He is saying, literally, apart from Him we can do nothing. We must understand that. We are members of Jesus Christ. We cannot be doing our own thing apart from Him and then when we get ourselves into trouble, run to Him like a little child would run to a parent because all of the sudden he is in trouble. Rather, we need to live in Him. That is the way that He tells us, that we can bear no fruit apart from Him.
What He wants is that we will bear fruit, fruit that will last. The only fruit that will last is souls. When you think about it, we can do all kinds of things in this world. The Lord wants us to work in this world. But of all the things that we can build, and all the things that we can do, none of it is going to last. It lasts a number of years and then it either falls apart, or is destroyed, or burns, or an earthquake destroys it, or whatever it may be. The one thing that will last is a soul. Whether that is bearing children and raising them in the Faith. Whether that is being able to evangelize people, to go out and bring people to the Lord. Whether that is done through the work of prayer as we pray for the conversion of souls, or the up-building of the Christian family so that people will grow in holiness, so they will grow closer to our Lord. We have to realize just like in our lives, if we convert to the Lord we start telling a few others about it and others are brought to the Lord because of us. And because they are now converted to the Lord, they in turn will tell others about Him, and others will be brought because of them. That is the way it is intended to work.
The devil of course, gets right in there. He tries to get us to the point where we do not want to talk about the Lord. In our society they tell us that everything is okay to talk about except religion and politics, except that we talk about politics all the time, so basically it is to say everything except religion. That is wrong. In America, the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. That is what we have been trying to live in America all too long, is freedom from religion. As Americans, our society has apparently decided that they want to be free of God. They do not want any part of Jesus Christ. So for those of us who know Jesus Christ, we know that He is the only way. We know that He is the vine and that there is no life in the branches separated from the vine. We are the ones who have the obligation to go out and bring the good news to others.
That is what the Apostles did in the early Church. They went and brought it to the pagans. They were telling unbelievers, uncircumcised people, people who did not know the law. They knew of the Jewish people, but they did not accept it or they were not accepted as the case may be. But now they could be accepted into Jesus Christ. That is the question we saw even in the first reading. Does one have to become a Jew in order to become a Christian? Early on, Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism. The first Council that the Apostles had to meet in was to take up that question. Do the men have to be circumcised? Do they have to be brought into the Law of Moses before they can be considered Christians? Was Christianity going to become something separate from Judaism? For us of course we recognize our foundation is in Judaism, but of course they are something entirely separate. What we want then is to bring all people, whether it is the Jews or the gentiles, into the fullness of truth.
We need to bring Jesus Christ to the people. We need to Baptize them into the Lord so that they too can know Jesus Christ, they too can be saved. The Pharisees wanted to be able to say that one could not be saved unless they were circumcised into Moses. We know that that is not the case. The Apostles preached that there is only one name given to humanity by which we are saved, and that is Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, there is no salvation. Therefore if the Lord is calling each one of us as His disciples to bear fruit that will last. It is to bring Him souls, souls that will be with Him for eternity; souls that will know the salvation that is theirs only in Jesus Christ. That is what He is asking of each one of us, to bear that fruit. We are to bear it in our own lives (to save our own souls first,) and then bring that good news to as many as we can, so that those who will praise the Lord for all eternity will not be only a few, but will be many. He does not want us to bear a little bit of fruit that will last. He wants us to bear great fruit, and fruit that will last for eternity.
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.