Tuesday May 22, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:22-34) Gospel (St. John 16:5-11)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that part of the reason why it is better for Him to go back to the Father is so that He can send the Holy Spirit to us. The Paraclete whom the Father would send for us to have the Holy Spirit within our hearts, as the Lord tells us, to be able to prove within us about sin, about justice, and about condemnation. He is given to lead us into all truth. He is given to remind us of all the things the Lord has taught us.
Today we consider what our Lord told about sin and that they refused to believe in Him. He is telling us that this itself is a sin. The reason it is a sin is because they know, and we as well know. We know who He is and if we refuse to believe wholeheartedly we will be responsible for that. Imagine standing before God on the day of judgment and having to answer the question. "Why, when you heard the Gospel preached day after day, did you refuse to believe?" We will be held responsible for that. That is the point He is making. The Jewish people knew that the Lord was coming. They knew the time of His coming. They knew the signs of His coming. And they refused to believe. We have far more than they ever could have hoped for, and still we do not believe. It is not that we do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we do. However, do we believe firmly in every single thing He has taught us? Do we live the faith we profess? Do we wholeheartedly trust in the things that He has promised? This is what we are going to be held responsible for.
Then there is justice. We decided to condemn Him, but He has gone to the Father. It is a matter of justice then, He is telling us, for those who do believe in Him; for those who are united with Him, for all of them also to go to the Father. It does not matter what the world will do with them. Look at what happened to Paul and Silas. They go and preach the Gospel. They get whipped and beaten and thrown in jail; and that was called justice. Yet God, in the midst of their prayer brings forth this earthquake, sets them free from their shackles, and they do not run away. This in fact brings about the conversion of the jailer. That is true justice: God setting free the prisoners who are unjustly yoked. We need to see the same thing: that this world for us must be like a prison, because true freedom comes only on the other side. The fullness of freedom is when we are united with God both here and in heaven. Justice for those who live their faith is not going to be seen in this world; it will be seen in the next, like our Lord who unjustly was condemned to death and in God's justice was brought to the fullness of life.
As for condemnation, it is not because He was condemned but because through His condemnation, the prince of this world has been condemned. When Jesus rose from the dead, then the devil was crushed. At the moment of the Crucifixion and of the Resurrection, the devil was condemned for eternity. He is the one through whom sin came into this world because of his jealousy, because his pride. He is the one who has now embraced eternal death because he tried to kill the just One. For us who remain united with Jesus, we too will be able to share in the condemnation of the devil. We too will share in the crushing of his head. But if we choose to go the other direction and decide to put ourselves wholeheartedly into this world, and the prince of this world, then we are choosing eternal death. We are choosing condemnation while the Lord holds out life to us. Those are the choices that are ours. The Lord has already told us that the Holy Spirit will prove everything of this world to be wrong. So if we are going to embrace this world, we too will be proved wrong. We have our choice. We can do it now. We can look at it through prayer and we can recognize where we have gone wrong. We can repent and we can share with the Lord in His victory. Or we can give ourselves into the world because it looks easier, and more pleasant, and everything else and we will be proven wrong on the day of judgment. That is the choice that is ours.
We have two worlds to choose from. We know which one we need to choose, but that is in the future and it is hard for us to see. It is difficult for us to accept it in the here and now. It is a lot easier to accept this world and the ways of this world. But the Lord has made clear that the Holy Spirit who is in our hearts has already demonstrated, and will demonstrate if we are willing to listen, that this world is wrong. If we want to choose sin and if we want to choose injustice, and we want to choose condemnation, then choose this world. But if we want to be united with Jesus forever, we need to choose the way of the Holy Spirit, and the way that the Holy Spirit leads us. That is the way of Jesus Christ and that is the only way that leads to true justice, to life, to forgiveness, and to heaven itself. That way is Jesus.
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.