Reading (1 John 4:11-18) Gospel (St. Mark 6:45-52)
In the first reading today, Saint John tells us that perfect love drives out all fear, and in the Gospel reading, we hear about the apostles being terrified as they see Jesus walking on the water. Saint John tells us the reason; he says it is simply because their hearts were hardened. So, for us, we also have to learn the same lesson because, if our hearts are hardened, we are not going to be able to love the way God wants us to. After all, we hear in the first reading that if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us. Again, that love has to do with that self-sacrificing kind of giving of the self, seeking the other. But when we have a hardened heart, it is focused on the self and not on the good of the other; it does not look to give but rather it looks to get, and it is focused only on ourselves. Certainly, there are times when we reach out to others and try to help them, but even with that, if we really looked at it, we are going to find in most of the cases it is because we want to get something in return an Ill scratch your back if you scratch mine sort of thing. And so what happens is that we do not grow very much in love because we are not willing to die to self.
What we are being called to is to allow the Lord to remain in us and to work through us. In fact, Saint John goes so far as to say, As He is, so we are in the world. Just think of that: As He is (right now in Heaven), so we are (but we are in this world) if His love is within us because in Heaven all that there is is love. And if our love is brought to perfection, Saint John of the Cross tells us all that divides us from Heaven is the most sheer little veil, almost like a veil of chiffon that you can see through but it is still separating you from God. So as He is, we are even in this world if our love is brought to perfection.
And our love is brought to perfection, he tells us, when there is no fear. We have total confidence in God if we have perfect love; we do not get caught up in the self; we are not afraid; we do not feel sorry for ourselves or any of those things because we are focused on the Lord. We recognize that everything is in His hands, that everything is going to work out according to His Will and it will be for the best, and that we can just have confidence and remain at peace. Now, until we get there as I suppose that most of us probably are not there, and some of us do not even have a concept of what that would even look like because it is so far from where we are at but nonetheless, we need to keep working at it.
We need to pray for that grace to be able to love, to be able to die to self, to pray for true humility so that we get out of the way and the Lord can truly live in us and through us. That is what is necessary because He is love and He is perfect love. If we have perfect love, we will be conformed perfectly to Jesus Christ, and therefore, Jesus Christ will be living in us and through us completely. That is precisely what He desires for us and that is what we need to desire as well. But it means we need to die to self. We need to pray for that because we cannot do that by ourselves. That is something that has to happen from the outside; God has to do it, in other words. And so it is something we have to dispose ourselves to, but we have to allow Him to do it and we need to cooperate. But if we can die to self so that Christ lives in us, then our love will be brought to perfection. Then we can truly say, As He is right now, so are we in this world because it is Him who is living in us, just as He is right now. If our love is perfect, then there is nothing that stands in the way of His being able to work in us and through us, and so truly, as He is, so are we even in this world.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.