Thursday May 29, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 18:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:16-20)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading, told His disciples that in a little while they would not see Him and then a little while again and they would see Him once again. Obviously, given the context, they could not understand what He meant. If we were standing with Him 2,000 years ago and He spoke these words, we would not understand what He meant. It is so important to Saint John that he repeats the same thing three times within a dozen lines to make sure we understand that this is something which is critical for us. It, of course, deals with His death and Resurrection, which is the central point of our salvation, and that the Lord is going to be taken from them. He tells them that they will grieve and they will mourn while the world rejoices, but then their grief will be turned into rejoicing. And for the worldly, it will be just the opposite; their joy will be turned into grief. So when they were able to see the Lord again in His Resurrection, it was the fulfillment of this.
But for us as Christian people, it is more than just simply being able to grasp that the Lord was taken from them and then He was seen by them again. We have to grasp the concept that in just a couple of little lines this states our salvation, that the Lord was removed from us and He was given back. Really, it is not so much that He was taken from us; what happened is that we rejected Him and now we have accepted Him. And it is in that acceptance of what it is and what He has done that we are going to find salvation. So for Him to be able to say, In a little while you will see Me no longer, and then a little while again and you will see Me again, from their perspective, they would assume this is going to be permanent: You will see Me no longer. He did not say, A little while and I am going to be gone for three days. From their perspective, because they did not believe in the Resurrection, they assumed that it was going to be forever. But the Lord was telling them of His Resurrection.
But, for us, it is to know that the Lord is always there, that once we have come to this point of conversion, once we have opened our hearts to be able to accept Our Lord, He is always present. Even if we do not recognize His presence among us, even if we cannot feel Him, it does not matter. He is always there as long as we are in the state of grace, and He dwells within us. This mystery, then, of the death and Resurrection continues within us in the spiritual life because there are times when He seems to be nowhere near and His presence seems a million miles away. Yet, as we have seen, if He did not leave He would not be able to be within us. And so He never leaves us unless we commit a mortal sin, and that is only because we tell Him to get out.
We simply need to keep our focus on Him. Even if we cannot sense Him present, it does not matter He has never gone away. He is always present just as He was with His disciples. He never left them, but in their hearts they had left Him. Once the Resurrection took place, their hearts could be completely fixed upon Him. That is what He is looking for from us. He is always there. The question is not on His part; the question is always on our part. Even if we do not recognize that He is present, do we believe that He is with us? Do we know with the confidence of our faith that He is present within and that we will recognize His presence once again? But even if we cannot feel it, know that He is present because that mystery of the Passion, the death and Resurrection of Christ, has to be lived in each one of us; and if it is not, we are not true followers of Christ. That is why this is so important to Saint John, because what happened to His disciples is going to happen for each one of us and we need to have that faith, the faith that the disciples could not have yet because they did not understand. But for each one of us, we are without excuse. We know; we understand; all that remains now is for us to put it into practice, to remain faithful to Our Lord when He seems not to be present, and to await the day when once again we will see Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.