Friday May 2, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:34-42) Gospel (St. John 6:1-15)
In the Gospel reading, as Our Lord feeds these five thousand people with the five barley loaves and a couple of fish and has twelve wicker baskets filled with fragments that are left over beyond what the people were able to eat, they recognized immediately that this was someone who was extraordinary and they proclaimed that the Prophet had come into the world. What they were speaking of was the prophet of whom Moses spoke in the Book of Deuteronomy when he said, “God will raise up a prophet like me from your own kinsmen.” They had been waiting all of these years for this one person who was going to be the prophet that Moses spoke of. And that is the one whom they were recognizing Jesus to be.
Now Our Lord goes up the mountainside at that point because He realizes that they are going to come to make Him king. They wanted to make Him the king for the wrong reason. Jesus Christ is the King, indeed “the King of kings and the Lord of lords” as we read in the Book of Revelation. But He is not king because He fed the people with bread. That is why they wanted to make Him king, but that was not what He was about. He is the King of the world, not even because He is the Son of God, but He is the King of the world because He died for us. It is precisely in His service to His people that He demonstrates His royalty. We recognize, certainly, that because He is God, we will say that He is King. But that is not the real reason why He is the King. We see that these people, while, on the one hand, they were correct in wanting to make Him the king, they were incorrect as to why He was the king. And so He completely removed Himself from that because He was not merely the king for the people of Israel, and He was not the king merely because He was a prophet, but rather because He was the Messiah. That was the point they did not yet understand.
What they could not grasp is that He is God and man at the same time. Gamaliel, who was the teacher of Saint Paul and whom we hear in the first reading, was able to see there was something extraordinary that was happening. He warned the Sanhedrin not to do anything because, you may recall, they knew the time in which the Messiah was supposed to come into the world based on the prophecy of Jeremiah. That is why when Theudas came into the world, people thought he might be the Messiah; and Judas the Galilean, people thought he might be the Messiah. He [Gamaliel] was saying, “Well, this is a similar movement and if it is of God, you are going to be fighting against God Himself; but if it is human in origin, it is simply going to die out.” And of course, it is evident; we all know what the truth is. But even so, we see the Sanhedrin flogging them anyhow because they could not accept that what these men were doing could possibly have been of God. Even though Gamaliel, who is known as the greatest rabbi to have ever lived, was instructing them on what to do, they still refused to believe.
So we see the two different extremes: the people who want to make Him the king because they did not believe in Who He was simply because they did not understand it, and then we have the Sanhedrin, the teachers in Israel, who refused to believe even though they saw the truth. They saw the works that were done in His Name and still they refused to believe. They refused to allow Him to be their king, but again, because they misunderstood what that meant for Him to be their king.
For us, the virtue stands right in the middle. We understand Who He is, we understand why He is the King, and we can accept Him. We can allow Him to be our King, not because He fed people with bread, not merely because He is going to raise up a little army around Him and kick the Romans out, but rather because He has destroyed the true enemy, the enemy of our souls. He has destroyed Satan and all of his minions. And because He is both God and man, because He died and rose from the dead, He is the King – not merely of the country of Israel, but of the New Israel, of the kingdom of God, of all of those who would believe in His Name. That is who we are and that is what Satan cannot defeat because this is not a merely human endeavor which will die out, but rather this is of God Himself and there is a promise that of this kingdom “the jaws of hell will never prevail”. So we can remain firm and confident provided that we do not just simply stand back and watch, but that we enter into this kingdom and indeed that we enter into our King and that we unite ourselves with Him to be one with Him in His work of the salvation of souls.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.