We Need to Pray that the Lord Will Open Our Heart
Thursday May 8, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 8:26-40) Gospel (St. John 6:44-51)
We hear in the first reading about Philip: the Lord speaking to Philip and telling him to run forward and catch up to the chariot, and Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch and simply being snatched up by the Spirit and going off then to Azotus, where he was placed down by the Spirit and he continued to preach the Gospel. When we hear about these things, we recognize that there is absolutely no reason in the world why we should not be able to do similar things. If we would pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in our lives, He will lead us wherever it is that we need to go. He will lead us into all truth if we will simply allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, if we will allow ourselves to put the control into God’s hands and be able to walk according to the way that we are led rather than trying to take charge of things ourselves.
Our strength in being able to do that is going to come from the Eucharist. Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading that He Himself is the Bread of Life. With that Bread of Life, we have absolutely nothing to fear; death has no power over us. The fruit of the tree of which Adam and Eve were never able to eat, the Tree of Life, we have now eaten. The Eucharist is the fruit of the Cross, and the Cross is the Tree of Life. Each one of us that has eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Life has the promise that Jesus made, the promise that we heard: Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. We have eaten of the Author of life. We have life within us.
And being that it is Jesus Whom we have received – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – when we stop to think about the soul of Jesus Christ, the life of Christ, it is the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit every time we receive Holy Communion. If we are in the state of grace, the Trinity dwells within. Everything is there for us. All that remains is to open the heart to be able not only to receive the Lord but to be able to listen to Him, to be able to see, to be able to hear – not with our physical eyes and our physical ears, but with the eyes and the ears of the soul, or of the heart, if you want to think of it that way. The Lord, Whom we receive in Holy Communion, is right there within us wanting to speak to us just as He did to Philip, if we are willing to listen.
Now the other side of the difficulty is that even when we are willing to listen, most of us have huge walls built up in our hearts, so try as we may, we are not able. We have to pray and ask the Lord to tear those walls down, to open the heart, to burst it wide open so that nothing will be in the way and that He will be able to do in us anything He wants. That is what we see in Philip. That is what we see in the other apostles as they went around and preached. They were not afraid anymore. The fear was gone. They had eaten of the Bread of Life and there was nothing that they were afraid of. They had Jesus with them; they had the Holy Spirit with them. Everything they were doing was done for God. There was nothing to fear. This is why Saint Paul can tell his converts, “Life is at work within you,” because they had received the Lord; they were one with Jesus Christ. And so are you. That oneness with Christ is what gives to us the strength.
We heard from the Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, the Suffering Servant Song from Isaiah 53. The question is: About whom is the prophet speaking? We know Who the prophet is speaking of, but it is precisely because we are united with that Suffering Servant that other prophecies from Isaiah can be ours as well. They will run and not grow weary, for instance, because we have Christ and there is no wearying the Lord. If we are doing His work, we will have all the strength and all the grace necessary to be able to do whatever He wants. How could Philip be out in a river one moment and be in Azotus the next without ever having moved his feet? The Holy Spirit picked him up just as He did Elijah, Habakkuk, and others in the Old Testament times. Why could He not do the same with us? Only because we are not willing or because we are not able.
And so we need to pray to get the heart open. We need to pray to be able to listen, to hear the Word of the Lord spoken in our hearts. Everything that we need to do the work of God has been given to us. Now we simply need to get everything out of the way so that God can do His work in us, and even that has to be done by the Lord. We co-operate, but we have to want it. That is what we need to ask ourselves: Do I really want it? Do I want to be friends with Jesus at a distance? Or do I want to be one with Jesus in the depth of my being, united with Him perfectly? That is what He wants for each one of us, so we need to let Him in. We need to get rid of all the barriers that keep us from unity. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit and we need to go wherever He leads us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.