Friday January 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Week After Epiphany
Reading (1 John 5:5-13) Gospel (St. Luke 5:12-16)
In the Gospel reading, we hear about the leper who was healed of his leprosy and, as he went to the priests to show himself, we are told that the reputation of Jesus spread more and more. Obviously, people saw the healing. The leper certainly told people what happened, consequently, on human testimony the reputation of the Lord spread. People believed in Him, and they came from all over the place to hear Him preach and to be healed. Now there were many who, of course, came for purely selfish reasons; they simply wanted to be healed of whatever their problem was. But there were also many who believed in Him as the Messiah.
It is in this line that we can see what Saint John is saying in the first reading. We look at what happened based on human testimony, but Saint John is telling us that the testimony God has given on His own Son's behalf is far greater. He tells us there are three things that give testimony, that is -the Spirit, the water, and the blood. The water, of course, is the divinity; the blood is the humanity; and then we have the Holy Spirit as well. So we literally have God giving testimony on His own Son's behalf and still people do not believe.
Today we do not necessarily hear about somebody specifically saying that they were touched by Jesus and healed because He is not here physically with us. But there are many who have been healed by the Lord. And then, of course, we have all the stories in the Gospel of people being healed. So we have plenty of human testimony, but we have God's testimony. It is God who said, at the Baptism of His Son (as we will hear on Sunday): "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove. All the testimony of the prophets bear witness to Him because He fulfills them all. Everything that Moses wrote regarding the Messiah is there because He fulfills it all. We have all the testimony that we need, all the proof that is necessary.
But intellectual proof will never demonstrate to anybody the reality that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or that He is the Messiah; only faith can do that. Once there is faith, we do not need the proof anymore. All these things do is to demonstrate that our faith is correct, but by themselves they will never do anything to demonstrate to a person that He is who He is. We have probably all experienced trying to explain to somebody and they just simply do not want to hear it; they do not want to believe. It does not matter how much proof you lay before them; they do not want it because they do not have faith.
And so, we need to pray for that faith for those who do not believe. Otherwise, as Saint John says, if we do not believe in the testimony that God has given on His own Son's behalf, we make God into a liar because it is God who has given the testimony and when we say, in our humanness, that we do not believe, we are saying that God is lying. So what we need to do for the people who do not believe is to pray for them. Pray for faith, and then try to explain it to them. Do not just get into an intellectual argument. Make sure that we are doing the spiritual things first: laying the foundation spiritually and providing for their faith so that the understanding will build upon the faith that is already there. It does not work the other way; faith has to come first. So we need to pray for them that they will accept the testimony, not only on the human level of the people who know the Lord or of all the people we read of in the Gospels, but especially of God Himself - that they will first believe in God and then that they will believe the testimony that He has given on behalf of His own Son.
And [we need to pray] that they too will have that belief because the belief in Christ is nothing other than eternal life. That is what we need to desire for every single person: that as we possess eternal life because of our faith in Christ, that all people will have that same life; that we will be able to share that life with them. Saint John makes that very clear at the beginning of his first letter when he tells us that the reason he wants to share this with us is not only that we will have life, but that our joy will be full and his joy will be complete. That is what we want for others as well: that they will know the same truth, that they will know the same joy, that they will share the same life - not only here in having the same faith, but for all eternity because in possessing that faith here, they too will possess eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.