January 10, 2003 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier  Friday After Epiphany

 

Reading (1 John 5:5-13)   Gospel (St. Luke 5:12-16)

 

 

In the Gospel reading, we hear about the human testimony regarding Jesus. We hear, for instance, about the leper whom Jesus told not to tell anyone what happened. We can only think about ourselves. If we had leprosy and were completely separated from everybody and all of a sudden we were healed, I have my doubts that we would be particularly silent about it. We would be telling everybody. Of course, everybody would know we had been healed because in the ancient world you could not live among the other people if you had leprosy. So all of a sudden this person went from living with the lepers, apart from everybody outside of the town, to being able to live among the people once again. It would have been pretty evident right from the start that there was something different, and the people would have been asking. This man gave testimony to Jesus. We hear that other reports spread about Him and that anywhere He went the people would all assemble to listen to Him and be cured. But we also hear about Our Lord’s response: He would go to the deserted places to pray. He would certainly take care of the people, but then He would go apart and He would pray because, ultimately, the testimony that He was looking for came not from the human persons but from God.

 

That is precisely what Saint John tells us: that Jesus came and there are three who give testimony – the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Now if we look at that, we say, “The water, the blood, and the Spirit…what exactly does that mean? Who is giving testimony?” Saint John makes it very clear; it is God who is giving that testimony. When we think about, in Saint John’s Gospel when he talks about water, he is talking about grace, he is talking about the very life of God Himself. The blood, of course, is His human nature. The water is His divine nature. And the Holy Spirit is the One who has been poured forth upon the Lord at his Baptism and gives testimony to the Lord. He is not in water only. He started out as the Second Person of the Trinity and then took on our human nature, so it is water and blood and then the Holy Spirit. There are three, then, that give testimony. It is God Himself in the water; it is His humanity in the blood; and it is the Holy Spirit. So we have the testimony of God. And Saint John says that if we do not accept Jesus Christ then we have made God a liar because God is the One testifying on behalf of His own Son, as He said at the time that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the waters of the Jordan, “You are My Son, this day I have begotten You.” We see that all of these things are there. We have the humanity of Christ in His Baptism; we have the divinity of Christ being demonstrated by the voice of the Father; and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him. We have divine testimony as to Who this Person is.

 

Saint John tells us that if we believe we have eternal life because the life is in the Son of God; it is the water, it is the grace, it is divine life, and we share in that also through Baptism. But, as we have said many times, it is not just an intellectual belief; it is not just simply giving credence to the fact that Jesus is God and saying, “Yes, I believe that,” but then continuing to live our sinful lives. But rather, it is to say, “If I believe this then I need to change my life. I need to live the faith that I profess.” And so it is not just this external act of faith that says, “Oh yeah, I believe Jesus is the Son of God, therefore, I have eternal life and I’m going straight to Heaven.” Lots of Christian people believe that and they are going to be sadly disappointed one day. But rather it is to say, “If we possess this testimony from God – “This is My Son” – and we are incorporated into His Son and He into us, then that means we have to become like Him in all things. And if we are, then we have eternal life. In other words, if we are striving for holiness, for union with Jesus Christ, then we have eternal life. And like the leper in the Gospel, it will be very evident to everyone. That is, we have lived our lives in one manner and suddenly we are living our lives in a different way. The leprosy of our sin will be removed and the holiness will be evident, and we too, like the leper in the Gospel, will have to give our testimony. That is, we did not do this ourselves but it is the Lord who did it.  And so He has the testimony of the Holy Spirit; He has the testimony of His Father; and He has our human testimony because we recognize Who it is that is at work.

 

We know Who it is into Whom we have been incorporated. We share in the divine life. We too have the Holy Spirit and our own humanity, so within us there are three who give testimony: the water, the Spirit, and the blood. It is all there. So it is not just 2,000 years ago that this testimony was given; it continues within each one of us. If we accept it, and if we change our lives to be able to live the faith that we profess, then we have eternal life because we posses the Son and the Son is life. And if we have that life, then we have the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and they dwell within us as we await the day that we dwell fully within Them in eternity. That is what is being offered to us. All that is necessary for us is to accept the testimony of God and to live according to it.

 

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.