Friday November 22, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 10:8-11) Gospel (St. Luke 19:45-48)
Saint John, from the first reading today in the Book of Revelation, tells us that the angel that was standing on the land and on the sea held a small scroll in his hand. He was told to take the scroll from the angel and to eat it. And it is told (just as it was with the prophet Ezekiel) that when he eats the scroll it will be sweet as honey in his mouth, but when he swallows it his stomach will turn sour. The reason for that is because he will recognize that on that scroll is truth. It is sweet; it is the Word of God; it is something which is beautiful. It is something which we recognize immediately to be something which is pure and joyful. Then when we look around us and we have to bring that word out into the world, it is not always so pleasant to us because people do not want to hear the Word of God; they do not want to know what God has to say. And they not only reject the Word of God, but, of course (as we all know too well), they reject the messenger as well. And so to have to go out and say something like what our Lord told them: You have made My house a den of thieves and it is supposed to be a house of prayer, to know that when you speak (as what happened to Jesus) that they may look for a way of putting you to death because they do not like what it is that you say, they are going to be on the lookout for any misstep. That is what Saint John was recognizing. He knew that what he had received and what he had taken into himself was the truth. But the people did not want the truth and they tried everything they could to destroy that truth. In fact, because the truth is a Person, and it is the Person of Jesus Christ, what they were trying to do was completely destroy the truth of God because they could not accept it.
If we accept the truth, it is not merely the written truth that is on a page, but it is to consume the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ. And so to be able to have that truth within us becomes sour in our own stomach because it requires us to stop sinning and to change our lives, to begin to live that truth that we have received and have consumed. Even though we want to do that, even though we recognize it is the truth and that it is what is right and that it is something beautiful and sweet, it is not easy for us to make those changes. And if we do decide, finally, to make those changes, it is not easy for us to be able to accept what follows from it: to be rejected, to be hated, to be despised, to have people no longer wanting to talk with us, to have them trying to shun us and even perhaps to shut us up in whatever form. Most people are not going to do quite what they did to Jesus, that is, to actually seek a way of putting you to death; but the fact is they do pretty much the same in that they try to make sure the truth is not going to get out because it bothers their conscience.
And so, what we need to be able to do is exactly what Saint John did, that is, to eat the scroll, to recognize the truth and to swallow the fullness of the truth, the fullness of Jesus Christ, and to seek to live our lives according to the truth that we have been given, knowing that it may not always be real pleasant for us. It is not going to be easy to live that truth, and it is certainly going to be rejected by the vast majority of the people. But we know it is the truth and we need to stand by it. We need to live it regardless of how anybody else reacts and regardless of how much, on the natural level, we may react against it. When we know it is the truth, we know the truth will set us free, and that is what we need. Other people will see the same thing. Most will reject the truth but it does not matter it is still the truth and we still know it.
So we have that choice to make. Saint John had to make the same choice. He saw the beauty of the truth he was receiving. He also understood fully well that it was going to be received at a price. Each one of us can recognize that truth and see the beauty. Each one of us also knows that we have to take up our cross; that is part of the truth we are to receive. So none of us makes an uninformed decision. We know what is required of us. We know what will follow from it. We know that it is going to set us free. We know that it is going to mean eternal life. The question is do we really want it? Objectively, we know that we do; subjectively, it makes our stomach turn sour sometimes. But as long as we know that this is the truth and the truth will set us free and the truth is Jesus Christ, it does not matter what we have to do, what we have to pay, what the cost might be for us subjectively or objectively it does not matter. All that matters is that we accept the fullness of the truth and that we live it in our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.