May 2, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:7-21) Gospel (St. John 15:9-11)
Our Lord in the Gospel today gives to us this commandant, to remain in His love. It is the only commandant that Our Lord has given to us beyond what had been laid down in the Old Testament. We have the Ten Commandments, but they can be all summarized in this one: to love. To love God and to love neighbor, Jesus tells us, those are the two greatest commandments. Even when we look at the Ten Commandments, the first three are about the love of God and the latter seven are about the love of neighbor. If we truly seek the good of others, which is what love is all about, seeking always to do what is the very best for them, it is in that, the Lord tells us, that we will find the joy that is His. We will remain in His love and then His joy will be ours and our joy will be complete.
Imagine what the joy of our lives would be, if we truly had the joy of Jesus Christ in us. It is a joy that would be immense. It is a joy which is beyond anything that we can know in this world. It is beyond anything which this world can give. When we think about the joy that comes from certain events in our lives, we cannot even begin to grasp what this joy can be. Just think for those of you who are parents of the joy of the first child born, how incredible of a day that was and the joy that must have filled your hearts. That is just a tiny foreshadowing of the kind of joy that Jesus wants for us. Not the exuberant kind of joy that might come when a baby is born, but it is that deep profound joy that never goes away, a joy that no one will be able to take from us. But there is only one way that joy is going to be obtained, Our Lord tells us, and that is to love. We need to pour ourselves out, that is what love is about. It is that self-sacrificing, self-giving, total self-abnegation kind of love.
The Apostles had to recognize that same thing. Peter, in the first reading today speaking to the assembly at Jerusalem, says to the people why are you trying to put the law onto the Gentiles? Our ancestors were not able to do it, we have not been able to do it, besides that no one is saved by the law, as St. Paul tells us. Rather God had given to the Gentiles the Holy Spirit because they had faith, and that faith is going to lead them to hope, and the faith and hope together will provide them with love. So for each one of us, we need to do things in the same order. It is our faith that is going to bring to us the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that is going to fill our hearts with love and help us to have true hope in Christ, and from that faith and hope inspired by the Holy Spirit, we will be able to love.
The love is already there if we are in the state of grace, the gift of charity has already been given, but it is a question of the degree to which we are willing to use it. Remember that the love of God is to radiate and magnify in us and through us. We need to make sure that we are not taking that love of God, that fire which He has ignited in our hearts, and try to keep it for ourselves, or put it under a bushel basket because we want to keep it. If we do that the fire goes out. It does not illuminate anyone or anything, and it just simply diminishes. The Lord made that very clear in the parable about the talents. If we take the talent that He has given to us and bury it in the ground, we are going to be condemned. He wants us to multiply it. He has poured His own love into our hearts already, but not yet in the fullness of which we will be able to receive it. That part is up to us to cooperate with Him, to exercise the love, to use it, to be able to love God and to love our neighbor. And with each act of love we perform, our capacity to receive love and to give it will grow until the point where there is nothing left of the self. As St. Paul says, “I have been poured out like a libation.” When there is nothing left of the self, all that will remain is God, and therefore we will become the very love of God, and then our joy will be full. It will be complete, because it will be the joy of Jesus Himself. It is a joy that will take over our entire lives, a joy which no one will ever be able to take from us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.