May 16, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Reading I (Acts 22:30;23:6-11) Gospel (St. John 17:20-26)
When we hear these words of Our Lord, (spoken again at the Last Supper, part of the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, as John 17 is called,) they are very, very profound and beautiful for each one of us. Listen to what Our Lord says to His heavenly Father. First of all, He prays for His disciples, but not only for His disciples, but for all who will believe because of their word. That is us! What a wonderful thing to know that Our Lord, who is God, prayed to His heavenly Father specifically for us, so that we would all be one. One in truth, and one in love. But that was not all, then He went on and He said, “Father, they are your gift to Me.” Do you ever stop to think of yourself that way, that you are a gift that God the Father has given to His Son? Yet that is precisely what the Son of God said, so we need to dispel the doubts about that. We also, then, need to make sure that we are striving for the rest of what He prayed for. In other words, if we are indeed the gift of God the Father to His Son, then He prays that each one of us would, first of all, be brought to perfection as one. That we would all be one in Him and that He would be in us, and all would be one, one in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That is what Our Lord is praying for.
When we look at all the division within Christianity itself, and now even within the Catholic Church itself, that is the greatest scandal in the world. There is nothing worse. All of the things that the media can throw up mean nothing, because we are going directly against the prayer of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that no one would sin, what He prayed is that we would be one, and that we would be one in love. When we look at what is going on, we recognize that, that unity is clearly not there, and very often neither is the charity. We need to ask ourselves how much and how well are we living up to what is expected of us? If the Father has given us to the Son as a gift, and we are to be obedient to the Son, then we need to be striving for that unity. If somebody else does not want to be united, that is their choice. It is not for us to decide who ought to be united and who ought not. It is not for us to judge whether someone else is innocent or guilty, whether they are one or whether they are not, whether they can be part of this body or whether they cannot, that is for the Lord to decide. Our job is to love them, and to be one with Jesus Christ who loves them, and to be filled with charity towards others, as Jesus is. That is our task. If we are being the cause of division we will have to answer to that.
This is not a false unity. There is all kinds of that going around, and it is a false unity based on a lowest common denominator. Let us just find anything that we might be able to agree on, and then we can say that we are one. That is not it at all. It has to be unity in truth, so we do not back down from the truth. We must uphold the truth, but uphold it in love, obviously. We must strive for that kind of charity towards others. To maintain the fullness of truth, because Jesus is the truth, but to maintain the fullness of love, because all of us are to be one in Jesus Christ, who is love. That is what the Lord is looking for. That is what He prayed for, and He prayed for us, so it is not beyond our ability. The Son of God specifically prayed for us for these things. All the grace is there to do it, if we are only willing to cooperate.
That is what Our Lord is asking of each one of us now, to remain faithful to Him. By remaining faithful to Him, that does not simply mean tenaciously hanging on to the tenants of the faith, while we reject everyone else. Rather it means maintaining the fullness of the truth, while reaching out to everyone else. Treating them with charity and calling them to a unity. The Lord told us there will be division, but He also said woe to those who are the cause of it. If the truth is the cause of division, there is nothing to fear. But if our arrogance, if our lack of charity, or if anything else that we do is the cause of division, we will have to answer to that. Maintain the truth, but maintain it in love, so that all will be one in Jesus Christ, and He will be in us, and the Father will be in us, and we will all be one in Them.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.