May 4, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:1-10) Gospel (St. John 15:18-21)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear what is going to be expected of His disciples. There is a clear dichotomy between those who are followers of Jesus Christ, and those who want to immerse themselves into the world. We would probably all object and say, “I want to be a follower of Jesus.” Then we need to ask ourselves the next question: is it just that we want to be a follower of Jesus, or are we one? It is a very easy test, Our Lord makes clear to us today, to tell. Do the worldly people like you? Do they speak well of you? Do they treat you like one of their own? Do you fit in with them? Are you able to go out and socialize with them without any difficulty whatever and you fit right in? Then you are a follower of the world. The Lord tells us, “If the world hates you, it is because it hated Me first.” “If you keep my words,” He tells us, “they are going to speak ill of you.” He tells us that is because they do not know the Father. They do not know the One who sent Him.
The same, then, would have to be spoken of each one of us. If we find ourselves more along the lines of the worldliness, we do not know Jesus Christ, and we do not know the One who sent Him. Those are words I do not think any of us like to hear, but they do really need to sting us to the very heart, because we cannot continue to play this game of giving lip-service to Jesus while our hearts are far from Him. The Lord makes clear we have two choices: we can follow Him; or we can follow the ways of the world. The ways that this world holds out to us are clearly not the way of Jesus Christ. All of these things can come ultimately from one of two places. If they are not of God, then it should be pretty evident to us where it comes from, and if it is not coming from God, then it is leading us along that wide smooth path.
Unfortunately for Americans, we like being on wide, smooth paths. It is easier. It is much more pleasant. It is pretty clear where we are headed. But the problem is, that it is not so clear where we are headed. It leads us right to perdition for eternity, and the Lord makes that clear. The way, He says, that leads to heaven is rough and it is narrow. Therefore if you are on the rough, narrow road, for the most part you are going to be walking alone, because most people are going to reject you. They are not going to want to be with you because you do not uphold the same values as they do. You have a source that comes from above, while they are following one that comes from below. You are going to live according to a different set of principles than they do. You are not going to fit in. You are not going to be spoken well of. You are not necessarily going to be real well liked. You are going to be thought to be different and odd and weird and a misfit and all the other things that they want to call you. Our Lord in the Beatitudes would say, “Rejoice and be glad,” because that is when you are being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is when you are truly being a follower of Jesus Christ; when you are being treated just like He was.
If you are not being treated as He was, then I would strongly recommend that you do a little soul searching to get into the heart, and to ask the question why? Why does the world think that I am wonderful? Why do I fit in with the worldly types? Why do they not reject me? Why do they think that I am one of theirs? Because if that is what they think, we need to ask ourselves, what does Jesus think? Would He recognize me as one of His own? Would He be able to say to me if I died today, “Well-done good and faithful servant enter into your master’s rest?” Or would He look at us and say, “I tell you, I do not know you.” And we would say, “But Lord, I spoke in Your name, I went to church, I did various things.” And He will look at us and say, “I do not know you. You are not one of My sheep. You did not follow Me as your shepherd. But you wanted to fit in with the ways of the world. You wanted to walk according to the ways of Satan.” That is the choice we need to make, and it is not made after we die, it is made before we die. Who are we going to follow? Are we going to follow the devil and all that he presents to us? Then we can be with him as our shepherd for eternity. Or in this world, are we going to follow Jesus Christ? We may be, and will be rejected by many people in this world, but we will follow Him as our shepherd not only now, but for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.