April 15, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 49:1-6) Gospel (St. John 13:21-33, 36-38)
There are a couple of important points to look at in today’s readings. First, in the reading from Isaiah, we hear in the words of the Servant of the Lord, “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent My strength.” How often it is that we feel that same kind of problem, like everything we do seems to be a failure – “What good has life been? What have I accomplished?” – all these kinds of despairing sorts of thoughts that come into our minds. And the devil is the one who is right there to be able to plant these seeds within us, to help us to see that we have done lots of useless and meaningless things. It is just like going around in circles and we are not really accomplishing a whole lot. It is easy, especially if you are raising a family, to think that, because everything is very cyclical. You get up in the morning and have to feed the kids, then you feed them again at noon and you feed them again in the evening. Then it is doing dishes and feeding kids, making dinners and cleaning up after them, just doing the same things over and over and over again. Some days it probably feels like you are not getting a whole lot accomplished. And what good is it anyway?
Yet at the same time, we hear what the Lord has to say: “My reward is with the Lord and My recompense is with My God.” Then God goes on to say of the Servant, Whom He formed from the womb just like each one of us, “It is not enough for You just to be My Servant and raise up the tribes of Judah and the survivors of Israel, but rather I am going to make you the light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” If we look at the life of Jesus on the natural level, it is an absolute disaster; it is a failure. “Here’s a guy who lived at home until he was 30 years old, didn’t have a job, wanders around aimlessly for three years, and then dies.” Now, we know better than that, but that is what it would look like to anyone just looking at it on the purely natural level. And yet, of all the people who have ever lived on the earth, there is no one whose life was less of a failure and more of a success, and that is simply because He did the Will of God. That is the only reason.
So too for us, we need to know that same thing. As long as we are doing the Will of God, our life is a huge success. No matter what the state in life is, as long as you are doing what God wants you to do, you are being faithful and thereby successful. You have to remember: The only one who is a true success in this world is the one who gets to Heaven, and the only one who is a failure in this world is the one who fails to get to Heaven. It does not matter if you have the fanciest job, the most money, the neatest car, the biggest house, whatever it might be, if you wind up in hell, what good is it going to do you? There was an extremely wealthy man back a few years ago who was giving a talk, and at the end of his talk he said, “Where I am going, I’m going to need an air conditioner and an extremely long extension cord.” I just listened to that and said to myself, “If you know that’s the direction you’re going, why don’t you do something about it?” It was because he loved money more than God. He was a total and dismal failure, and yet the worldly will hold him up as a great example because of the success that he had in a worldly way. So we need to be able to recognize that it is fidelity to God that is going to make us a success – not whatever the world might think.
The other point to recognize here, again, is the point regarding Judas in the Gospel reading. We see that Our Lord told us in the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel why Judas was going to betray the Lord – twice we hear it – and it is because he did not believe in the Eucharist. Today in the Gospel, Judas receives the morsel Jesus gives and immediately Satan enters his heart. If we look at Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, in chapter eleven Saint Paul tells us that anyone who receives the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily becomes guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. The way he says it is “Anyone who receives the bread and wine unworthily becomes guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ”. It is not ordinary bread and wine. He goes on to say, “This is the reason why many of you are sick and some of you have died,” because they received the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. And here we see Judas receiving the Lord and immediately Satan entered his heart. He just received Jesus Christ and immediately Satan entered His heart! And so we have that importance of making sure we have the right disposition as we receive Holy Communion and the reality of the Eucharist demonstrated very clearly for us – and the very reason why Judas betrayed Jesus: because he could not accept the Eucharist.
There is a man whose life was a dismal failure, and yet the Lord Whom he betrayed, the Lord Whom Peter betrayed, the Lord Who looked like He was a failure, says to His disciples, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him.” What looked like a great failure is the greatest glorification of God. So then for us, to know Jesus, to have Him within us, and to do His Will is what will give God the greatest glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.