Thursday June 5, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 22:30; 23:6-11) Gospel (St. John 17:20-26)
As we hear the continuation of the high priestly prayer of Our Lord from John 17 in today’s Gospel, there are a couple of lines which are of critical importance to us. The Lord prays for each one of us, and He says, “I pray not only for these but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” That is you and me, and everybody else throughout history who has believed in the word that Jesus Christ preached through His apostles. Then He prays that because of this we would be one and that He has given us His glory. More than that – and this is what is really astounding – He says, “Father, they are Your gift to Me.” Imagine that! You are the gift of our heavenly Father to His Son, Jesus Christ. That is something which is beyond our wildest imagination to even try to conceive. But the fact is that it is a reality.
Now the question is: What kind of a gift have we been? If you were to stand before God, our Father, right now and He were to look at you and say, “Because I love you so much, I want to give you as a gift to My Son,” what kind of gift do you want to be to the Son? Do you want to be the most perfect gift you can be, to love Him as perfectly as you can, to grow in holiness as perfectly as you can, to serve Him as perfectly as you can, recognizing, of course, Who it is that has given you as a gift, and recognizing Who it is that has received you as a gift? Or do you just want to shrug it off and say, “Oh, who cares? It doesn’t matter to me if I’m a gift to the Son of God. Mediocrity is good enough for me. It’s nice of God the Father to give me as a gift, but that wasn’t my choice so why should I care? What difference does it make to me that I’m a gift to God?” Tragically, that is the way most of us tend to live.
When we think about the gift we would want to give to the person that we love the most in this world, usually what we want to give them is the most special gift that we can, the most precious gift that we are able to give, something that we know is going to be very special to them, that is going to make their day if not their life. That is precisely what God the Father has done for His Son. And the gift that He chose as the most precious gift that He could possibly find is you – it is your soul. It is to unite you to Jesus Christ and to come to dwell within you as you dwell within Him. Because He loves you so much, He has given you the Holy Spirit to accomplish this task so that the Holy Trinity literally dwells within you. He takes you up into the intimate life of the Trinity so that you can dwell in God. He makes us one in truth and in love just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in truth and in love.
So we each need to look within our own hearts and we need to really ask ourselves, “What kind of a gift have I been? If God the Father has given me as a gift to Our Lord because He wanted to give the most precious gift, the most wonderful thing that He possibly could, how have I responded? Have I been a precious gift? Or have I been more like a rebellious teenager?” These are important things when we see that Our Lord Himself recognizes that we are His gift and that Our Lord Himself prayed for us. If this is Our Lord’s reaction to us, what is ours to Him, considering that He is God the Father’s gift to us? He loved His own and He loved them to the end. He has given us the example of the way that we are to love Him.
And so when He took the gift that God has given (that is, Himself) and He looked at what that meant and what it would require of Him if He is God’s gift to us, now we can ask the question in reverse. If God has now given us to Him as a gift, what will that require of us? What should our response be? When we see such generosity in God the Father and such love in God the Son that we are a gift from the Father to the Son, we are to love Him to the end.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.