Wednesday March 20, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Lent
Reading (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62) Gospel (St. John 8:1-11)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that if the Son sets us free then we are truly free. He tells us that it is the truth which gives us freedom, that if we hear His words and believe them we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. And He tells us the type of slavery we are under: It is the slavery to sin. Which means that if we live according to the truth, we are not going to be sinning; we are going to have the true freedom of the children of God.
When we look, for instance, at these three young men in the first reading, they are slaves at this point. Even though they were among the royal people and therefore had been trained by King Nebuchadnezzar, nonetheless, they were slaves in a foreign land. They had been taken into Babylon in the Babylonian Captivity and they were living as slaves. More than that, they were now bound by the strongest men in Nebuchadnezzar’s army so they were completely bound up and thrown into the white-hot furnace. Even with that, God sets them free because even though they were bound externally, they were completely free internally. And to demonstrate the internal freedom which they had because they chose to serve God rather than Nebuchadnezzar or the golden statue that he set up or some pagan god, God sets them free from the fire. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes, then, that there is no god other than the God of the Hebrew people.
It is in this way that we begin that process of freedom. We know that there is no other god than the Lord. We know that He is one God in three Persons and that He alone is God and there is no other. We all know that and we acknowledge it. Still, we continue to worship false gods, whatever they might be. Whatever materialism we give into, whatever selfishness we give into, whatever sin we give into – it is a false god. It may not be actually bowing down before the thing and worshiping it as a god, but the reality is that we are making it more important, at least momentarily, than what we are making God. We are telling the Lord we would prefer to have this than to do His Will. And, therefore, the thing needs to go.
Remember the Jewish people: They had to sacrifice to God the very things that they worshiped as false gods. To demonstrate that they were not God, they became the means of sacrifice. We need to do the same. Whatever it is that stands between us and the Lord, sacrifice it; offer it to the Lord. Live in truth and then the truth will set us free. Otherwise, we remain bound up in sin and we do not have the fullness of the freedom of the children of God. If we are going to say that we are the children of God, then Jesus tells us we have to do what God does. God does not sin. God is truth. God is freedom. If we are doing the Will of God, we will live the truth and we will have freedom. That is what we have to be about. That is what we need to seek.
So look in prayer. Ask yourself what the areas of sin are in your life, what areas you are bound up in slavery to, and then offer those as a sacrifice to the Lord. Seek the true freedom which the Lord offers to us, the freedom which the Son offers. And if the Son sets us free, then we are truly free – slaves no longer to sin, but knowing the true freedom of being forgiven and the freedom that we have as children of God.
* This homily text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.