Be Completely Open to the Will of God
April 25, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Friday within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 4:1-12) Gospel (St. John 21:1-14)
In the Gospel reading again today, we see the struggle that the apostles had rather early on. This, of course, is taking place before the Feast of Pentecost, and so Jesus had already appeared to His disciples on two occasions after His Resurrection. Now they go back up to Galilee and they go out fishing. Again, one just needs to ask the question: What are they doing? Here they are being called by Our Lord – Peter knowing fully well that he was called to be a fisher of men; that was exactly what Jesus told him, although that was three years earlier and he may have forgotten – but they are just going to go back to their former way of life! “Well, the Lord rose from the dead, that’s good. But I guess I’m going fishing.” It does not make sense. But you still see how even after the Resurrection, before the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they still did not understand.
After the Holy Spirit, of course, we see in the first reading that Peter is willing to go into the temple area and begin to preach; and then stand before the chief priests, the Sadducees, and the entire Sanhedrin and say to them, “If we have to answer to you for a good deed done to a cripple, then you need to know that this man stands before you sound in the Name of Jesus Christ, and that there is no other Name given to humanity by which we are to be saved.”
So all of these events have taken place and still they had such a struggle to understand. When we see the exchange that takes place, we hear Saint John, who is the Beloved Disciple, and yet even John, in writing the Gospel, pulls back a little bit when he refers to his own self here because he realized that what he was doing was not right. He still calls himself “the one Jesus loved”, but he is no longer in this case the Beloved Disciple because he realizes that he, in a sense, had betrayed the Lord. He had gone back up to Galilee and had gone fishing instead of keeping his focus where it belonged, which is on Jesus and on the resurrection of the dead. And one can understand if they did not comprehend the import of the Resurrection and what it was the Lord was asking them to do, one could understand why they would do such a thing.
But it is something that is very informative for each one of us because we know of the resurrection from the dead, we have the Holy Spirit given to us, we know that there is only one Name given to us by which we are to be saved. Now all that remains is the question: What is it that the Lord is asking of us? It was pretty clear and is to all of us that He was not asking His disciples to go back fishing, but that was not clear to them. So for each one of us, we have to go to the Lord and ask Him what it is that He wants from us – and we have to be willing to allow Him to tell us. We cannot start with a preconceived idea of what it is that we are supposed to be doing. Now we know that the Lord will not get in the way of the duties of your state in life. So if you are married, He is not going to ask you to not be married or whatever it may be, but we just have to allow Him to show us the way that He wants us to take. We cannot assume to say, “Because I am married, I have to have this job so that I can live in this house and so I can do these things.” We do not know that. Give it all to Jesus; give Him everything and let Him show you what He wants. Do not begin with any preconceived notions of what it is supposed to be, other than the vocation. If you are already in your vocation, that is not going to change, the manner in which it is lived could, but we just have to leave that with Him.
But we need to pray; otherwise, we are going to be just like the disciples who had all of this given to them and they still did not understand. And we are not any different. The only difference is that after the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they understood – we have the Holy Spirit and we still do not understand. So we need to come to the Lord, to look to Him. He gives His disciples the loaves and the fish for breakfast, and every morning He does the exact same thing for us. It is a symbol of the Eucharist. He is right here and He gives Himself to us every single day so that we can come to Him. We have that recognition that Saint John and Saint Peter had that it is the Lord. Then we, like Peter, will be willing to jump overboard and go to where Jesus is and we will do whatever it is going to require, knowing that whatever is His Will is what will work the best and we will trust. That is the challenge for each one of us. Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts and minds so that we will know the Will of God and carry it out in our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.