Sunday May 20, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Sunday of Easter
Reading I (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29) Reading II (Rev 21: 10-14, 22-23)
Gospel (St. John 14:23-29)
In the second reading today from the book of Revelation, St. John describes the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. In that holy city, he tells us that there was no temple, but rather that God is its temple, God and the Lamb. It does not need any light, because God is its light; and the Lamb, he says, is the lamp of the temple. When we think about that new Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem is the Church, and you are a member of the Church. Consequently, everything that it says also refers to you and to me. You are a member of the new Jerusalem. You are a temple of Almighty God, and therefore the Lamb is the lamp and God Himself is to be the temple. There is a wonderful exchange that goes on here. In Baptism, we were incorporated into Jesus Christ, which is why we can say all of these things of ourselves that we are in the Lord. Yet at the same time in the Gospel reading our Lord tells us that anyone who loves Him, the Father will love, and He and the Father will come and make their dwelling within them. Then He tells us that He will send the Holy Spirit into us as well to lead us into all truth, and to remind us of all that He has taught us. We see that the Most Holy Trinity dwells in us and we dwell in the Trinity. There is that two-way exchange. We have entered into God, but God has entered into us. Consequently we are filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, with the light of the Lamb who is Jesus Christ, and He dwells within our hearts. We have this truth within us. We are temples of the Most Holy Trinity.
We are called to live lives of holiness. Because of this we hear in the first reading what the Apostles recognized as they gathered together in the first Ecumenical Council in Jerusalem. They wrote to the people of Antioch and they said, "We do not want to put upon you anything that is not absolutely necessary." What is necessary, Jesus makes very clear to us, is that we love. As Christian people who are incorporated into the Trinity, and for those who are in the state of grace, if the Most Holy Trinity dwells within, all that is necessary is that we love. That does not mean that we run around having nice feelings about everybody; that is not what love is all about. Love must be expressed in action. What the Lord wants for each one of us is to live His life, to be able to allow Him to live in us and through us. As it says of the holy city (the new Jerusalem), it needed no light because God Himself is the light. That is exactly what it should be in each one of us. God should be the light of our life. He needs to radiate out from within us. Everybody should see that we have the Lord within. Every single person that we encounter should be able to see that we are living the life of Jesus Christ. That is the primary means of evangelization for each one of us. We need to bring the Lord out into the world, into the darkness in which this world has immersed itself. We need to be able to show the world that we are living in a different manner; we are living according to the light, and according to the truth, and according to all the things the Lord has taught us. It is not beyond us but rather it is the fullness of who we are. That is the purpose of why the Holy Spirit was given, to remind us of everything the Lord has taught us. It is a matter of accepting this truth and making the adjustments in our lives to be able to live according to that truth. That is really the hard part. It is not a question of whether or not we believe it; it is a question of whether or not we want it. The Lord has told us that it is the truth. We know that it is the truth. We are incorporated into Him. He dwells within us. We do not doubt that, because we know it. The question is, do we want it? Because if we want it, we are going to have to make some changes in our lives and that is where most of us have a little problem.
We see the dignity that the Lord holds out to us. He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, are actually going to come and dwell within us. That is why He tells us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid," because He is there. We have nothing to fear because Jesus is right there. Then anything that happens within our lives we recognize to be part of God's will, and that we have no reason to fear. But if we try to do it on our own; if we forget that the Lord is there; if we forget that we are within Him, then we get afraid. We try to control the situations in our lives. We get all upset and anxious about many things, and uselessly. Look back on your life and ask yourself is there one, single thing that has gone better because you got upset or worried and afraid. I can guarantee you that there is not one; not a single thing that getting all upset and anxious in the heart has made any better. I can also guarantee you, if you look honestly at those things, that you will have to admit that there are many, many, many things in your life that have not gone so well because you got anxious and upset and afraid in the heart. We see that there is no reason to be upset, no reason to be worried or anxious or afraid. Rather if we trust in the Lord and we trust in His promises, then we should be at peace because He is right there. It reminds me of when St. Therese was commenting about the time the disciples were in the boat and they thought they were going to sink because the waves were coming over the boat. It tells us in the Gospel that all that time Jesus was sleeping in the bow. St. Therese says that Jesus is within you, do you really think that He is going to let your boat sink? He is right there. Even if He seems like He is asleep, and you are calling on Him, and He seems not to answer, the Lord is there. The boat is not going to sink. Even if the waves are coming over the top, we do not need to worry because Jesus is there. But if we decide, because the Lord seems to be sleeping in the bow, that we had better take control of the situation ourselves, then we run the risk of sinking the boat. All we need to do is trust, to be at peace, to have confidence in Him because He is God.
Now we can see where our lives need to change. We need to let go. We need to trust. We need to put all of those things that we know in our head and that we believe, into practice. When you look at when they are building a new church and you see the church going up, but there is nothing happening inside yet. Before they say the first Mass in that church, you can go and you can tour the place and you can say it is a beautiful place, but it is empty. The Lord is not here and nothing is happening. The church building is not yet being used for the purpose for which it was being made. We can say the same of ourselves. We are the temples of the Most Holy Trinity. If we are not living the Faith that we profess, and if we are not allowing the Lord to be the center of our lives, and to be the light, then we are not allowing Him to radiate through us. If we are worried and anxious and upset because we are trying to control things, we are not trusting in the Lord. Anyone can look at us and say the temple is beautiful that the Lord has made, but it is not being used for the purpose for which it was made because we are not allowing the Lord to be the center. We are not allowing Him to be the One who dwells within that temple. We are basically telling Him to move out of the way because we want to be where He is supposed to be. In using that analogy of the church, imagine taking Jesus out of the Tabernacle and setting yourself right up on the altar so that you become the focus. You become the center. You are the one for whom this temple is dedicated. That is not the way it is supposed to be. You are the temple, and Jesus is in the Holy of Holies. He needs to be the center of our lives, not us. He needs to radiate through us. He needs to be the One that people see when they look at us. It is the same when you come into this church, as beautiful as it is, and you can look at all the things, but the Trinity dwells right there in the Tabernacle. Anyone who walks into this church ultimately has to be able to see that, because anyplace that you look in this church everything is intended to direct your focus to the Tabernacle. That is the way our lives need to be. No matter what anybody sees in our lives, everything should be directed right back to Jesus Christ who dwells at the very heart of our being, there with the Father and the Holy Spirit, living in us and wanting to live through us, if we are willing to let Him.
The real question for us is not whether we believe but whether we are willing to act. The Lord tells us that we must love; it is the one thing that is necessary. Are we willing to do it? Are we willing to make the changes in our lives to put what we believe into action? Are we willing to bring Jesus into the world in the way that we live, and the way that we act, and the way that we speak, in all the things that we do in our interactions with other people? We are called to lives of holiness. The Lord does not want mediocrity. He said, "Be either hot or cold, or I am going to spit you out of my mouth." He wants us to be on fire with love for Him. That means that we cannot live like everybody else out there. We need to be examples of what it means to be united with Jesus Christ. We need to be examples of the Faith that we profess on our lips, but it must be demonstrated in our actions. It is not enough to come here week after week after week and profess the Creed and then go out there and fail to live it. We need to make the changes.
The world needs Jesus today more than it ever has. And the only way that it is going to come to know Jesus Christ, is through the way that you and I live our lives. The world needs to see the lived reality of the disciples of the Lord or it will not believe. You can talk until you are blue in the face about the Lord, and if people see the hypocrisy of your life they are going to walk the other way. We need to put into practice what we preach; we need to live what we believe; and we need to accept the dignity that is ours. We are members of that new Jerusalem; we are temples of the Most Holy Trinity; we dwell in God and God dwells in us; and He has made us to be holy. He wants to touch other people through the way that we live our lives. He wants us to forget all the frivolities. He wants us to be in peace because we live the one thing that is necessary, and that is love, true love with our whole heart and soul and strength, first for God, and then for our neighbor. We need to love God so much that we are willing to get out of the way, to let go, and to let Him be the light in our holy city. We need to let Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) be the lamp within this temple, which is each one of us, so that it is not us that shine, but it is He. And as we live our lives, everyone will recognize that it is not we, but it is the Lord living in us and through us.
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.