Tuesday May 13, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 11:19-26) Gospel (St. John 10:22-30)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that those who are His sheep receive from Him eternal life, that they will never perish, and that no one can ever take them out of His hand. These are wonderful promises, but they are predicated upon one thing, that is, being His sheep. In order to be His sheep, He tells us that we have to hear His voice and we need to follow Him. That is the great question all of us need to ask of ourselves: Am I listening to the voice of the Lord? Am I following the Lord?
It is one thing to say that we want to be sheep in the Lord’s flock, but the difficulty for many of us is we really do not want to be sheep – we want to be the shepherd. We want to be the one who is leading the flock and telling the Shepherd where He is supposed to be going instead of being the sheep and following the Shepherd. We want to be the one whose voice is heard rather than the one who is hearing the voice. As we heard in the first reading, it was in Antioch that they were first called Christians (members of Jesus Christ), and Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” This being the point, if we are truly Christian then we have to be one with the Father. Not one in the same way that Jesus is, obviously, because He is God along with the Holy Spirit and the Father; the Three are One. Yet the oneness that we have must be a oneness of will. If we hear the voice of the Lord, Who is the Shepherd, and we follow Him, we will be one with the Shepherd. If, on the other hand, we think that we know a better path, then we are going to ignore the voice of the Shepherd and we are going to walk along a different way.
When Our Lord was speaking to these people in Solomon’s Portico. They said to Him, “Tell us plainly, are you the Christ?” But He had already told them that; they had asked Him that earlier and He spoke very clearly. And so He tells them again, “I told you but you do not believe and the reason is because you are not among My sheep and, therefore, you do not recognize My voice.” So He has made very clear and we know Who He is. These people in Solomon’s Portico knew exactly who He was, but they did not want to hear His voice. They wanted a Messiah on their terms.
Are we willing to listen to His voice? Are we willing to follow Him? If we are going to hear His voice, we have to be deeply rooted in prayer because that is the only way we are going to hear His voice. He speaks in the silence of our hearts. And so if we are not rooted in prayer, we cannot hear His voice; even though He speaks His truth to us, we still cannot hear Him. So that is the first question: Are we deeply rooted in prayer? – which follows from our baptism wherein we are called Christian. And then the second question is: Are we following Him? Are we walking the path of obedience? Are we following where He wants us to be? Are we one with Him in mind and in heart? Those are the things that we have to be striving for. It does not mean it needs to be perfect as yet, but it means that we need to be striving to hear His voice and to follow Him, to be with Him wherever He is, and to be united with Him in all things. That is what it means to truly be a Christian: to hear the voice of the Lord and to be one with Him. If we are living up to the name we have been given in Baptism, then that should describe and define who we are. If we do not recognize ourself in that definition then we are not living a truly Christian life, and we need to make some changes if that is the case.
So we need to look at ourselves and ask ourselves: If the Lord were to stand before us, would we actually have to look at Him and say, “Tell us plainly, who are you really?” or would we know Who He is? Would we recognize Him immediately, not because of how He looks – remember, Saint Mary Magdalene did not recognize Him – but by His voice? Because we are so perfectly united with Him in prayer, we would recognize immediately that voice of love that speaks to us. Would we recognize Him because we have become like Him in all things, we have followed Him to Calvary, and we have been united perfectly with Him so that we can say about Him what He said about His Father? That is, we can say to anyone who looks, “Jesus and I are one.”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.