Tuesday April 29, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Second Week of Easter

 

Reading (Acts 4:32-37)   Gospel (St. John 3:7b-15)

 

The Lord in the Gospel reading today, speaking of the Spirit, tells us that we must be born of the Spirit. But it is more than just a nice idea that one is born of the Holy Spirit; rather if one is born of the Spirit, that person has a different kind of life because the Spirit of God (which dwells within when one is in the state of grace) raises us to that supernatural level of being. Therefore, we are able to act in a different manner and we actually live in a different manner; it is no longer something which is merely natural. This is why Our Lord would be able to say, “If you do not believe when I speak to you about natural things, how are you going to believe when I tell you about the things of Heaven?” How can one believe, in this case, if one is not able to see? That is the point when the Lord says, “You can hear the wind but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going, and so it is with the Spirit.” You can see the results of the Holy Spirit. You cannot see Him; you do not know where He comes from; you do not know where He is going; you are not in control of it. Just as we can argue to the clear reality that we have a soul, one cannot see it, one cannot prove in any kind of scientific manner that there is a soul that is present because you cannot find it under a microscope, yet we know it is there. So too the Holy Spirit. The soul gives to the body life, and it is a finite life from the moment of conception until the moment of death. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, gives to the soul eternal life. That is why Our Lord, at the end of the Gospel, says that everyone who believes in the Son of Man has eternal life.

 

Again, it is not that generic belief that we can say, “Oh, yeah, I believe Jesus is God,” and then it does not make any difference in our lives. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit,” Saint Paul tells us. So if we are able to say that, we know the Holy Spirit is there. And yet if the Holy Spirit is not allowed to operate in our lives because we do not allow it, we cut ourselves off from the Lord. We saw in the first reading, for instance, what clearly the Holy Spirit is going to be able to do. People were generous. They sold what they had and brought it to the apostles, laid it at their feet. They had but one heart and one mind. That is the working of the Holy Spirit: to unite us in truth, to unite us in Christ. If we look at some of what is going on, not only within our own Church but within Christianity itself, the divisions are a scandal. It is pretty clear that this is not the work of the Holy Spirit, which means that there is another spirit that is at work.

 

It is true that the Holy Spirit is certainly present among Christian people as they all acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord; yet not everyone is following the Holy Spirit because somehow we think we know the truth better than the Lord does and therefore we reject it. We do not want to accept this teaching of the Church or that teaching of the Church; maybe we will accept most of it, but certainly not all of it. We are not of one heart and mind, certainly not with Jesus Christ, which is why it is critical that we do not simply look at this and say,  “Well, everyone who believes that Jesus Christ is Lord, they have eternal life,” because if we believe that then we have to live it. We have to believe in everything that He taught, everything that He is. That is the part people do not like. They like the idea that Jesus is “a nice guy” but that is about where it ends for most people – and that is not Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God, and if we reject His teaching, we reject Him. Even though we can acknowledge the truth that He is Lord and we can believe in Him lifted up on the Cross, we do not want to believe in Him when it comes to our own lives. And we do not allow the Holy Spirit, then, to lead us into all truth. Jesus is the truth, which is why if we reject something of the truth, we reject Him. So it is a schizophrenic existence for a Christian person to say, “I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord – but…” There is no “but” in Christianity when it comes to Jesus. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in Jesus Christ and in everything that He is and in everything that He teaches. We cannot claim to believe in Jesus and then reject His Church or reject the teachings of His Church or reject anything that He is or anything that He is about.

 

And so it is the Holy Spirit, then, who allows us to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. But it is that same Holy Spirit – and only Him – who leads us into all truth, into the very heart of Jesus Christ, so that we will not only know the truth but live the truth, and the truth will set us free.

 

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