Monday May 21, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:11-15) Gospel (St. John 15:26-16:4a)
Our Lord tells us that each one of us must also take part in bearing witness on His behalf. To bear witness, of course, on one level means to go out and preach by the way that we live and by the way that we speak. But actually the word "witness" in Greek is martyria, that is to be a martyr. It is to lay down our life for the Lord. That is what He is asking us to do. We think on the one hand of bearing witness as kind of a wonderful thing, of being able to live our faith and being able to bring the Lord into the world. That is part of what it is all about, but there is that other element, that we have to be willing to put our lives down. That is what it ultimately means to bear witness. Now it does not mean the Lord is necessarily going to ask that of us explicitly, but that has to be the willingness. In other words, if we are not willing to lay our lives down, then we are going to pull back. We are going to hedge our bets; we are not really going to be willing to put it all out there for the Lord. Therefore we do not fully bear witness.
The Lord also tells us that if we are going to be willing to do this, He is going to give us a share in His own work, the fullness of His work. He tells us all about how a time will come when anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God, and all these different things. Then He tells us, "I have told you these things that when their hour comes you may remember My telling you." Remember there were a number of times in St. John's Gospel leading up to the time of His death that He spoke of His own hour. "This is the hour," finally He said, "that I have come into this world." This is the purpose, and that hour is the day and the hour of His Crucifixion. He is giving us a share in that. He holds that out for us to be able to say, it is when you are persecuted for your witness to Me, then you are sharing in the hour; then you are sharing in the work of the Lord in its fullness. That is what He is offering to us. When we read that, when we think about what that really means for us, most of us would tend to back away. We say, "Well I do not know if I want to do it quite that much. I am willing to step forward, but I am not willing to put my head out there so that my neck is completely stretched out." But that is what the Lord is asking us to do; to bear witness, and to trust that He will take care of you.
When St. Paul went out into this area in Philippi, where these people were gathered, he just starts talking about the Lord. Now it is possible that they could have rejected him; that had happened to him already. We saw that last week when he was in Derbe and they stoned him to death, or what they thought was to death, and he got right back up and went back into town. Now here he is out preaching again. It did not matter to him what the cost was going to be, and instead of being stoned here this woman opens up her house to them. They have a place to stay and a place to eat and so on, and God provides for them that way. Each element of this was part of God's providence for them. So when we look at how God is going to deal with each one of us we need to see that He will take care of things in the way that is truly going to be perfect. It will be the best for each one of us, and it will be the best for being able to spread the good news (the Gospel) to people who do not know it, to people who need to know it. If it means that they are going to give us grief and ridicule us and do whatever else to us, then that is God's will and we need to praise Him. Some, on the other hand, will welcome the message with open heart, and that is going to be His will if that is the way that it works. We cannot worry because the worry is going to make us back away. The fear is going to make us say, "I had better not do this because the cost might be more than I am willing to put out." When you look at the cost that Jesus paid for us, we should not be backing away because the cost might be too much. We simply need to live the faith. We need to bring Jesus into the world and let Him take care of the rest.
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.