Thursday May 17, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:7-21) Gospel (St. John 15:9-11)
This homily was given during a retreat Fr. Altier is preaching in Wyoming.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that if we follow His commandments, we will remain in His love; and if we remain in His love, our joy will be complete. In fact, He says that His joy will be our joy. What greater blessing could we ask for than to be so united to the Lord that we would actually have His joy?
The question really is what exactly are His commandments? That is what the disciples had to try to discern early on, because they knew that it was commanded by God that all the Israelites had to be circumcised. So they meet in Jerusalem, and they go through this long debate about whether or not the gentile convert had to be circumcised. They are trying to figure out what is the obedience to the law? What are the laws that need to be followed? What are the laws that have been done away with? That was what they were struggling with. I think it is very, very important for us to note that we are told that it had gone on for a long time, and the discussion ended when Peter spoke. Notice that Peter, the head of the Apostles, remained silent. He listened, and then when he had heard enough, he spoke, and all other conversation was ended. The discussion was finished because the prince of the Apostles had made a ruling. Then all they did after that was listen to Paul and Barnabas. James, who was the Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem, was the one to write the letter and to determine what was to be in the letter. But it was Peter who spoke. This is for us then to know that all we have to do is go to the Church, because it was to Peter and his successors that the authority was given.
If we look to the Church then we know that we are following the commandments of the Lord. If we live according to the commandments of the Lord, then we will be filled with joy. It is kind of the opposite of what our world teaches us, that if we are going to find joy, they would suggest that it is in all kinds of selfish and sinful pursuits. It is going to be found in money; it is going to be found in pleasure; it is going to be found in material things; all these things, they go on and on and on. None of it has ever made anybody happy. There might be some little sense of joy, but there really is no deep joy, no lasting joy, and it is certainly not the joy of Jesus Christ. He wants our joy to be complete. He does not want it just to be a little bit. He wants it to be the fullness, and He wants it to be His own joy. His joy is in being in union with God and in being in union with us; and so our joy will be in being in union with Him. That means we have to do His will, and we know His will because the Church is Jesus Christ.
If we are in union with the Church and doing what the Church has asked, then we know that we are in union with Christ. When we are in union with Christ, united in prayer, united in the way that we live our lives, there will be a joy that we have never ever known, a deep, profound joy because Jesus Christ will be in our hearts, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. That will be a joy that no one can take from us. That was what He promised, so that is what we need to look at. We need to look at our own lives to ask am I living my life truly in conformity with Jesus Christ, following His command which is to love? St. Augustine says, "Love, and then do what you will, because love does no wrong to the neighbor." If we truly love, which means to seek what is truly the best for the other person, we will never sin. If we love God and love our neighbor perfectly, there will be no sin.
We look at some of the saints. In our own day we all know Mother Teresa, for instance. We can look at the joy that she always had, because she was always in union with Christ. She always lived her life in perfect conformity with the Lord, and she was always filled with joy. That can be ours as well. It did not matter what kind of hardships God asked of her, it did not matter what she had to do, there was always joy because it was the joy of Christ. Her joy was complete. That is the same promise made to all of us. If we are willing to pray, if we are willing to live our lives in conformity with Christ, which is to love God and to love our neighbor, then His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.
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.