Saturday January 12, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Week After Epiphany
Reading (1 John 5:14-21) Gospel (St. John 3:22-30)
In the first reading today, Saint John tells us that there is such a thing as deadly sin. This is where the Church has the distinction between mortal and venial sin, sin which is deadly and sin which is not. All mortal sin destroys the life of God within our soul. By one single sin, we can lose eternity - by our own choice. People in our society do not like to believe that. They like to talk about what theologians now call the Fundamental Option. That means, if you are basically leaning toward God, it does not really matter what you do because that is your "fundamental option". You are generally leaning in God's direction so God will have mercy on you, even if you have committed a whole bunch of mortal sins that you have not confessed, because He knows that you really want to do what is right.
Well, the Church is very clear in completely condemning this and says that by one single mortal sin we can lose eternity forever. So we need to be very cautious to try to avoid all sin. Saint John says not only to pray about mortal sin but he says to pray about any sin because even the small ones that we commit [are offensive to God]. We sometimes fall into the habit of saying, "As long as it's not mortal, it's no big deal." It is a sin. It is a violation against God and it is a big deal. And little sins will lead us to big sins if we continue to allow the little ones to be there; they grow. If, on the other hand, we are trying to work against the smaller sins, then we can be reasonably assured that we are not going to be falling into mortal sin because we are noticing the little things and we are trying to get rid of those as well. That is what we need to be striving for.
Saint John, at the end of the reading, says, "Be on guard against idols." Anything that is a sin in our life, in essence, is an idol; we are putting it up against God. We are making something else more important than the Lord and we do not want to get rid of it. Saint John the Baptist, on the other hand, says, "He must increase; I must decrease." Therefore, anything which is selfish, anything which is not God must decrease within our souls so that God can increase in our souls. What we want is for God to be all in our lives. Saint Paul says that He is all in all. And so, He wants to be all in us.
The question is do we want Him to be all in us? Most of us have lots of things in our lives that are not God, and lots of things, even, that are not of God. We like them too much to get rid of them. We do not want them to decrease in our lives because we are attached to them; they have become idols for us. They need to go, otherwise, God cannot increase in our souls. We are putting up walls and roadblocks to make sure that God does not have entrance into the deeper parts of our being because we have chosen to hang onto all of these other things.
That is the point that we need to understand. We want to get rid of all sin, not just mortal sin, but all sin in our lives so that God can be all in all, so that we will decrease and Jesus Christ will increase in each one of our lives until He fills us to the very fullness and we can say, then, with Saint John, that our joy is now complete. When we have heard the Bridegroom's voice, when we have heard the Lord and recognized Him dwelling in our soul, when everything else is out and God alone fills us, then and only then will we be able to say, "Our joy is complete."
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.