Joy Comes Only Through the Cross
Monday May 12, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 11:1-18) Gospel (St. John 10:1-18)
Our Lord makes very clear in the Gospel reading that He is the only possible way into Heaven, and He tells us that He is the gate. There is only one way that one is going to get into the sheepfold, and that is to go through the gate. Now, obviously, He also said that there have been others who entered through other means but they were thieves and robbers, and He said, “The sheep did not follow them.”
If we think back in our own lives, I suspect all of us are guilty of having followed the voice of a stranger – a stranger with two horns and a tail – all too often, and sadly we were enamored with his voice. We liked what he had to say because it seemed to be good, it seemed to be something that we liked. He was offering us lots of pleasure, selfishness, indulgence, all the things that would make us feel good, or so it would seem. We also know from experience that all it does is bring emptiness. It seems to bring momentary pleasure and then when it is all finished, all that we find is emptiness, all that we find is a sadness, a depression, and that there is a nothingness that is there. But then the devil is very shrewd and he tells us that the reason we do not feel anything is because we need more pleasure, and so we get hooked into doing the same thing over and over and over again, thinking that the pleasure (or whatever it is) is actually going to bring some kind of fulfillment. And we know that it does not. We have done it all too many times and we know that all it brings is emptiness.
We also know that the way the Lord leads us is not always so exciting. That is, it is not always pleasurable and it is not always comfortable. It is never boring, I must say. But it is not usually going to be the way of ease and comfort, as we all know. Yet it brings joy and it brings peace and it brings fulfillment, all of the things we are looking for. What happens is that the devil is pointing out to us what happens in the immediate and says, “You don’t want to do those kinds of things because they’re not pleasant! Therefore, they’re not going to bring good things for you.” So he points out all the easy things and the pleasant things. The Lord, on the other hand, says, “No, there is only one way; it is the way of Calvary.”
If He is the Shepherd and He walks out in front of the sheep, there is only one way that He is going to walk; it is the way that He already has. Yesterday, in the homily, I pointed out that where He ran when things were difficult was right to His mother. And who was there at the foot of His Cross but His mother? We will never ever be alone. Our Lord is walking in front of us; His mother is right there holding us; we have absolutely everything. And the way He is going to walk is through His mother, to the Cross, and to Heaven. That is the only way we are going to find the fulfillment, the peace, and the joy we are looking for.
The problem is that all too often we do not want the Cross. We do not want Calvary. We want the ease and the comfort. But remember, the devil took Jesus out and said, “Look! Just change the rocks into bread. I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world! Throw yourself off from the parapet and everyone will think you are wonderful!” All of the things we tend to look for: comfort and pleasure for the body, people to think well of us, power and prestige – and the Lord rejected all of them. Instead, He sought what was hidden, He sought what was more difficult, but He sought the Will of God.
That is what we have to be about as well, whether it is through the Holy Spirit descending upon us, as He did the Gentiles – but notice that even the early Christian believers who were Jewish rejected that. “How can you go to the house of someone uncircumcised and eat with them?” It was not a question of what was God’s Will; they thought they knew what God wanted. We need to reject our own concepts and ideas, and we need to seek God’s Will because in that alone are we going to find what we are really truly looking for, what the heart and the soul desire, that is, to find the peace of Jesus Christ. But there is only one way, and that is to hear His voice and to follow Him and to enter through Him, the only gate that leads to Heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.