Wednesday May 7, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 8:1b-8) Gospel (St. John 6:35-40)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us some of the most wonderful words that we could ever hear, that is, He will not reject anyone who comes to Him. Not only will He not reject anyone who comes to Him, He tells us He will not lose anything of what was given to Him and He will raise us up on the last day. Now even having heard those words, we need to be very careful about how we interpret them. There are some people who want to say, “As long as you believed at one time at least that Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior, you’re going to Heaven because He’ll never lose it.” He won’t, but we will. And so we need to make sure that we are faithful to Him. He is always faithful; there is no doubt. Saint Paul says to Timothy, “even if we are unfaithful, He will still remain faithful because He cannot deny Himself.” But he does also tell Timothy, “If we deny Him, He will deny us.”
That is the part we need to be very careful of. He will not reject anyone who comes to Him, but the real question is: Are we coming to Him? Are we giving ourselves over entirely to the Lord? Or are we just keeping the Lord there but at a distance? We want to be kind of close, but not very close. We want to have an acquaintance with the Lord, but we do not really want to give ourselves over to Him because that might cost us our very self, after all. So we need to be cautious.
When we look, for instance, at the first reading, we could ask ourselves what would happen to the people of early Christianity, the first-century Christians, who were all gathered together and had one heart and one mind. They celebrated the Eucharist and they listened to the apostles preach and so on. Then, all of a sudden, there is a persecution and the people scatter. Are they going to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of the difficulty? It is easy when things are going well, when you have got lots of support all around you, but when suddenly you find yourself on your own, when suddenly there is a problem, where do we turn? Do we turn to Christ or do we turn to ourselves? Or, even worse, do we turn to something else?
Most people, when the chips are really down, do not look to God. They either look to themselves to solve their own problems or they look to someone or something else to solve their problems rather than looking to the Lord. Now it does not mean that we cannot talk to other people and we cannot seek help in the midst of our difficulties; we certainly can. But it is a question of whether we are looking to Jesus Christ. When we really need the Lord, do we walk away from Him? If the people who were part of that early community of the Church suddenly walked away from Christ because there was a persecution – and while everything was easy and wonderful they were faithful Christians – the reality of their faith became demonstrated if they walked away from Christ or if they remained faithful.
We see in the first reading that God brings great good out of the difficulties. From the persecution of the Church, the Gospel spread and many more people came to believe. God will bring great good out of the difficulties of our lives, as well, provided we handle them in the right manner, that is, by looking to Him and being faithful to Him so that we do not deny Him. It is usually in the midst of our problems that we wind up denying Him. Sometimes we yell at Him; sometimes we blaspheme Him; we question and we wonder and we doubt. “If God really loved me, why does He allow these things to happen?” Scripture tells us exactly the opposite, but that is the way our human mind works. And so we need to be careful. The Lord will not lose anything of what the Father has given Him and He will never reject anyone who comes to Him, which is also very good news for those of us who struggle with this because we fall away and then we repent and come back. He will not reject us. But we simply need to be very careful that we do not reject Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us. If we are unfaithful, He will remain faithful. That fidelity to His promise is something we need to cling to. He will never reject anyone who comes to Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.