Friday April 11, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Fifth Week of Lent


Reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13)  Gospel (St. John 10:31-42)



Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, asks the question to these people of why it is that they are stoning Him, and they make it very clear that it is because of blasphemy, that He has made Himself God. They understood exactly what He was saying when He used the term “I AM”, which, again, in Hebrew would be “Yahweh”. And so they understood; they knew precisely that He was saying He is God. Yet at the same time, the Lord points out that to those who have received the Word of God the Scriptures themselves said, “You are all gods and all of you sons of the Most High.” It leaves them in a quandary because being brought into the covenant makes one a child of the Lord, and then He says, “Why is it that you want to kill Me because I said I am the Son of God?” And on top of that, He is the One Whom the Father has consecrated, as He made very clear. He is consecrated because He is the Son of God and because He is the Son of Man.


Now the problem for anybody listening is precisely the difficulty that any of us would face. If somebody were to stand here right now and say, “I am the Son of God and why would you want to call Me a blasphemer because I said that?” Well, any of us would be able to say, “Because you’re not God.” Except in this case, of course, He is. And so it is easy to understand why the people would be doing what they did. Remember, for the Jewish people, they had spent centuries trying to get rid of all of the idols and to understand and believe that there is only one God and that there is no other. So for Jesus to come along and say that He is God, for them that implied that there were then two gods, and they could not accept that.


So it is a matter of the understanding of what it is that He is saying and how that applies to each of us because each of us is a member of Christ and is also now a son or a daughter of God. And beyond that, we share in the divine nature, and so we have been elevated, then, to a supernatural level. We have not become God Himself; we have not actually become divine per se, that is, substantially; but we share accidentally in the divine nature. And so these things that are said of Jesus are also by extension said of us. Each one of us has been consecrated by God. Each one of us has been sent into the world. Each one of us is called to do the works of God. Each one of us is called to be another Christ and to allow the Lord to work in us and through us, to live in us and through us. We are called to this same kind of holiness.


Yet at the same time, we have to be very careful of the balance. All of these things being said of us, we cannot claim, obviously, to be the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. So it is all a matter of the understanding and the proper distinctions. The people of the Old Testament times did not understand it and the people at the time of Jesus did not understand it. It is the revelation of God, however, that we have that is allowing us to understand these things. But you can see where the difficulty would come for these folks, and you can see also where the trap could be for us. So it is that proper balance, and it is a fine balance to work out: to accept our dignity and yet not get arrogant about it, and at the same time to recognize our human weakness and not despair in the face of it. It is to recognize that we have this dignity that is given to us by the Lord, that we are elevated in Him, that we share His life and His nature just as He shared in our nature and our life. And yet at the same time, in doing that, we have not been brought as members of the Trinity, we have not lost our humanness, and we have not become substantially divine. But at the same time, we share the divine nature and the divine life. So, again, you can see where the difficulty comes in this.


But we have to be able to accept our own dignity as members of Christ, as sons and daughters of God, as persons consecrated and sent into the world by God. If that is the case, then each one of us is called to do the works of God. The difference now between Jesus and us is that nobody should put any kind of faith in us. They can put the faith in the works that God does through us and they can put the faith in God Who works through us, but their faith cannot be in us. And so where the difference is between Jesus and us in this is that in the Lord they pointed to Him because He was the author of the work; for us, it needs to point beyond ourselves and everything needs to point to Jesus because it is He that is the author of the work in us. So as we accept our own dignity, we have to be very clear that we look beyond ourselves and that we point beyond ourselves.


Jesus is God, therefore, everything points to Him. We share in His life and His nature, therefore, we must point to Him because it is His life and His nature – not our own. We have to do the works, but we recognize that the grace comes from God and the glory needs to go to God.


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