Wednesday May 21, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:1-6) Gospel (St. John 15:1-8)
Our Lord tells us at the end of the Gospel today that by this is the Father glorified, that we bear much fruit and become His disciples. Now even in saying that, we recognize that even in the early Church there was some question about what it really meant to be His disciples. We have the Pharisaical converts saying that one must be circumcised and live according to the Mosaic Law. You have the Gentiles saying that they do not need to be circumcised. And you have Saint Paul, who was the ultimate Pharisee, saying, “No, they don’t need to be circumcised.” And so the question of what it really means to be a disciple of the Lord is something that is not one’s personal interpretation, but rather there is something that is more objective.
We see that exact same thing in the early Church. When this discussion and dissension arose, the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas and some others to Jerusalem, to Peter and the apostles, so that they could get an answer to the question. As we will see in the next couple of days, it was not just the opinion of an apostle; but rather they met in a body, they prayed for the Holy Spirit, and they received the answer to their question. This is precisely what continues to happen in the Church whenever there is an ecumenical council of the bishops who get together. They pray to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit guides them into all truth, as He has promised, and the truth comes forth and is presented to the world. Not one’s personal opinion, not “my idea of what it is versus your idea of what it is”, but rather an objective teaching, something to which every single person in any culture at any time throughout the world can look to be able to have clarity and unity with regard to questions of faith and morals. That is what it is to be a disciple, to be united to Jesus Christ.
And to be united to Jesus Christ is to be united to the Vicar of Christ, the spokesman for Christ, because he is the point of unity for every person living on earth. So it is not one’s own opinion on how Scripture ought to be interpreted. It is not one’s own opinion on what Church teaching should be translated or understood as. But rather, it is the teaching of the Holy Spirit as given to us through the Magisterium of the Church, the teaching office of the Church, because that is not the personal opinion of a pope or a cardinal, but rather it is the grace of the Holy Spirit at work within the Church.
Now we see Our Lord also telling us immediately before He makes this statement about His Father being glorified to ask for anything in His Name and it will be given. I was reading something recently from Saint Anthony of Padua and he had a very interesting understanding of this. He said, “Everything that exists is nothing. The only thing that matters is the Will of God. And so, to ask anything you want is to ask to know the Will of God, and then it will be given to you.” It is a kind of interesting twist on it, but nonetheless, ask Him for anything, which is to know the Will of God, not one’s own opinion, but to know the truth, to know God’s Will. And then immediately following that, Jesus says, “By this is the Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples,” – that you know the Will of God, that you seek the Will of God, not seeking one’s own will, not putting forth one’s own opinion, but rather, seeking an objective truth, seeking union with God. That is what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ: to know the Will of God and to do it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.