Monday January 7, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday after Epiphany
Reading (1 John 3:22-4:6) Gospel (St. Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25)
Saint Matthew tells us that Jesus withdrew from the area of Nazareth and went to the Sea of Galilee to live in Capernaum to fulfill what the prophet had said about the people who lived in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, the people who lived in a land of darkness and of death. Light and life had now come to them. And each one of us, born with Original Sin, recognizes this exact same thing: that [we], who were born into darkness and who were born into death, are now reborn into life. As Saint John tells us in the first reading, we belong to God now. We have been baptized into Jesus Christ; consequently, the life of Christ is within us. And so we have that spirit, he tells us, that has overcome the world, the spirit that has overcome the false prophets.
The false prophets are the ones who do not preach the fullness of Jesus Christ. Saint John tells us that the spirit of the antichrist is the one that proclaims that the Son of God has not come in the flesh. Well, there are certainly plenty of those who are around. All we need to do is just listen to what various people are going to tell us: They deny the reality of Jesus Christ; they deny the reality of the Trinity; they deny that we are saved in Christ. And they have all kinds of other ideas about the spirit world or whatever it may be. You can look at people like the New Agers or the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses or any of these different groups that totally deny the reality of Christ. The Mormons, for instance, talk about Jesus, but they do not talk about the same Person in whom we believe. The Jehovah's Witnesses will talk about the same sorts of things, once again, not meaning the same thing by "Jesus" as we do. They believe that He is Saint Michael the Archangel; they do not believe that He is God.
We have all these different ideas that people are presenting out there, and lots of people are being sucked into it. It is a spirit of the world, and the spirit of the world wants to be able to say that you can have faith in Jesus and you can belong to the world at the same time. You can walk with one foot on either side of the fence. You can have Heaven and you can have earth, too. You can have all the things the earth affords and you can have salvation.
Yet, Scripture makes it clear that we cannot be walking on both sides of the fence; we have to make a choice. If we are going to reject the spirit of the antichrist and the spirit of the false prophets, Saint John is telling us that what we need to do, then, is to follow God's commandments. And God's commandment is that we are to believe in His only Son and we are to love one another. To believe in His only Son, however, is not a generic belief where we simply believe that Jesus has come in the flesh. That is part of it, but it is to say that if we believe Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and He is the Son of God, then [we] must believe every single thing He has taught. It is not just this nebulous idea that "The Son of God came; that was nice; that was 2,000 years ago; I can acknowledge that", but rather, it is to say "He is God, therefore, I must believe what He taught. I must accept everything that He did and all of His teachings because it is truth." That is what we have to be about. That is [what it is] to believe in the Name of the only Son of God.
Then we are to love on another because that is what He commanded us to do. So we can look at ourselves and we can ask ourselves: Are we believing in everything that the Lord has taught and are we striving for perfect charity, to love one another? Otherwise, what we are going to find is the selfishness. We are going to find all kinds of attempts to rationalize our way around why we do not have to believe in some of the things the Church teaches, some of the things the Lord has taught us through His Church because they are not always easy, they are not always convenient. We want to come up with excuses as to why that is not really necessary. We have plenty of people who want to call themselves Catholic who do exactly that. And so, if we find rationalizations and selfishness, it is the spirit of the world at work within us.
There is that war within: the spirit and the flesh. We have the Holy Spirit who has been given to us to lead us into all truth, and the fullness of truth is Jesus Christ and everything that he has taught us. If we are going to believe in the Name of the only Son of God and believe that He came in the flesh, then, once again, that requires that we reject all the ways of the world, all the ways of the false prophets, all the things that are not the fullness of truth. Sometimes, they are more fun and more pleasant. They are certainly easier because they tell us exactly what we want to hear, but they are false and we must reject them.
That is what is being presented to us today. If we want to live in that light, then we need to reject the darkness. And the fullness of the light is Jesus Christ and His truth. He came in the flesh to teach us the fullness of the truth. He taught us that we are to love one another and that choice, now, is ours. He has given us His Spirit to lead us into the truth, now we need to choose the truth, the fullness of the truth. We are to put the spirits to the test, Saint John told us in the first reading. That is what we need to do: look into our own self and put the spirits to the test. Are we choosing the Spirit of God, and the fullness of His truth? Or are we choosing the spirit of the world and part of the lies that the world wants to tell us because we are caught up in ourselves and we are caught up in the world. We need to reject that spirit and choose the spirit of Jesus Christ. And know that, as Saint John tells us, when we are following His commandments - believing in the Name of His only Son, and loving one another - whatever we ask is going to be given because we are living according to the Spirit of God and not according to the spirit of the world.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.