Wednesday December 5, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Advent
Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10a) Gospel (St. Matthew 15:29-37)
In the first reading today we hear from the prophet Isaiah that God, on His holy mountain, is going to provide a feast for all peoples, that He is going to destroy death, that He is going to heal His people. And we ask ourselves: "How is this to be done?" In the Gospel reading, of course, we see the fact that people are brought to Jesus. He cures them and He heals them and He feeds them at the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. But we have also seen, over the last couple of weeks, that Jesus is the Mountain of God. It is not a physical mountain that one climbs up, as these people in the Gospel did today, but rather, for each one of us, we are called to climb the same spiritual mountain Ė and that mountain is the Lord Himself. We are called to be one with Christ, to climb the Mountain who is Jesus. It is there that the Lord will heal us. It is there that He will feed us. It is there that He destroys death.
If we look in Saint Johnís Gospel, for instance, it is in chapter 6 that we read about the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes right after Jesus had walked on the water. Then He goes on to describe the importance of what it was that He had done in multiplying the loaves and the fishes. He tells us that it is the Eucharist, and that anyone who eats the Bread that He will give will live forever. There is no death for those who are in Christ. Even though there may be a physical death, there will not be a spiritual death; there will not be eternal death for those in Christ.
But it is also in prayer and especially in the Eucharist that we are healed internally. When we think about these people who came to Our Lord in the Gospel - the crippled and the mute and the blind and so on - we can look into our own hearts and ask ourselves: "Spiritually, what are the difficulties? Where do we limp along, spiritually? Where are we blind, spiritually? Where are we unable to speak, spiritually? When it comes to our relationship with Christ, how often are we blind to our own sinfulness? How often do we come to prayer and we think about everything except the Lord?" We are mute when it comes to the Lord, sometimes. And so we see that in so many ways we are spiritually blind and deaf and lame and so on.
And, of course, for most people, death is the big concern. What we learn in the Eucharist, what we learn when we climb this holy Mountain of Christ, is that death is the only means to life and that He has given to us the Bread of Life so that we will live forever. We have no reason to fear death. But what the Lord is asking of us is to die to self so that we can live for Him. That is where we find true life: when we are willing to die to the self in this life. So it is not about physical death merely, even though we know we have to enter into the physical death in order to enter the fullness of life in Heaven. But even now the Lord is calling us to die to the self: anything that is selfish, anything that keeps us from perfect union with the Lord, to put that aside and to die to that so we will have true life. The only way we will ever understand that, and the only place where we will ever find that, is on the holy Mountain: Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.