Tuesday July 29, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 John 4:7-16) Gospel (St. John 11:19-27)
In the first reading from Saint John’s First Letter we heard, In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and has sent His Son as an expiation for our sins. The very nature of love requires that we have to respond to it. We can never initiate love by ourselves because we do not have that capacity. God has to initiate love and we respond. God puts His love into our hearts, and we receive the love which He sends and try to love Him in return. At least, that is what is supposed to happen. Because God’s love for us is far more than our love for Him ever can be, there will always be love left over from what we try to return. It is that love which remains within us that we have to give to one another. And so the more we love God, the more we will be able to love those around us.
But because love consists in the fact that God, Who is love, sent His Son as an expiation for our sins, therefore, the Son of God is love. And it is the Son of God Who has come into the world. It is the Son of God Who has been given to each one of us. It is that same Son of God – Love Himself – Whom we receive in Holy Communion day after day. And because He is love, He teaches us; but it requires also that act of faith on our part. When we listen in the Gospel reading to what Saint Martha answered to Jesus when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and then He looked at her and said, “Do you believe this?” she answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world.” It requires that faith before we truly understand what love is about.
If we do not recognize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is Love itself, and that He was sent into this world to perform for us the single greatest act of love that has ever been known to humanity so that our hearts could be open to be able to receive the love of God, if we do not believe this then we have no part of true love. We all have feelings of love – that comes natural to every human being – but we have no true love. If one does not have Jesus Christ, if one is not in the state of sanctifying grace (sanctifying grace is the very life of God) then what we are going to find is that the love we have is going to be filled with selfishness. It is not true love. It is operating on the emotions of love. There may be attractions, there may be a liking of somebody, but to love someone truly requires first and foremost that we have love, that is, love with a capital “L” not with a small “l”. We have to have Jesus Christ and we have to know Him. And in order to know Him, we have to have our sins forgiven so that we are in union with Him. And the more profound that union with Christ, the more profound will be the love that we have for those around us.
That is why Saint John can tell us that love consists not in that we have loved God, because it does not consist in that at all. “God sent His Son,” Saint Paul says, “while we were yet sinners.” While we were His enemies, God loved us and reconciled us to Himself. So it is not about our love for God because we can only respond to the love of God. It consists in that God has loved us, that He has sent His own Son as an expiation for our sins. Once the sins are expiated, we can be united with Jesus Christ. And the very love of God poured forth in the Person of Jesus Christ, given to us in the Holy Spirit, that very love of Jesus Christ living within each one of us is what is able to shine through us. It is able to operate in us and through us so that we will be able to love God and love one another with the very love of God Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.