Tuesday October 28, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saints Simon and Jude
Reading (Ephesians 2:19-22) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-16)
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he tells us that we are being built into a temple of the Lord in the Holy Spirit; and that temple is built, he tells us, “on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.” When we think about what that means for us, every one of the prophets was martyred, every one of the apostles except Saint John was martyred (they tried several times with Saint John and it simply did not work, so it was not for lack of effort on their part) so what it means is that we are built on a solid foundation. As we know, in any kind of building if the foundation is cracked the building is going to fall. So we need to make sure the foundation that our faith is built on is not going to crack.
Now when we look at the apostles in the Gospels, we recognize that they are far from being the zealous, strong leadership we would want. Yet it is precisely through Our Lord’s Resurrection, the grace of the Holy Spirit given to them at Pentecost, and their cooperation with the Holy Spirit thereafter that they became the kind of men we would want to be founded on. The men who ran away from Jesus in the garden were all willing to stand up and be martyred. The men who did not want to be counted among those who followed Christ, and therefore locked themselves in an upper room out of fear, were fearless in preaching the Gospel even to the point of the shedding of their blood in absolute proof of the Faith they were professing. That is the foundation upon which we are built. It is a foundation not only of people who believed, but people who were willing to give their entire lives for what they believed, people who were willing to die rather than to deny any element of the Faith, people who were willing to pour out their entire lives for Christ and for the Faith in imitation of what Our Lord had done for them. That is the foundation we have. Then, in this temple of the Lord, Saint Paul talks about how Jesus Himself is the capstone. And so the whole structure is fitted together and is perfected by the Holy Spirit.
For each one of us, we have to look at ourselves and realize that we are probably not a whole lot different from the apostles prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. That is, we are sometimes embarrassed of the Lord, we are afraid and we lock ourselves up, we do not want to be counted with Him – when the suffering comes we run away just like they did in the garden. We are not a whole lot different, which gives us great hope because when we see the weakness of the apostles prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit and then we see their strength afterward, we recognize that there is great hope for us as well because it is the Holy Spirit Who is building this temple in the Lord. And since we are members of the Body of Christ, living stones in this temple that is being built into this spiritual edifice for the Lord, then we too are going to be granted the same kind of grace as the apostles. Theirs, obviously, was an extraordinary grace in order for them to be the foundation, to bear the weight of the rest of this temple. Yet, because we are built on that foundation, we can be guaranteed that the temple is not going to fall. It will be hit, but it is like Our Lord told us in the Gospel that the wise man builds his house on the rock, and the winds come and the rains fall and they beat against the house, but it is not going to fall because it is built on solid rock. Jesus is the rock upon which it is built, and it is built upon the blood of the martyrs, upon the faith and courage and witness of the apostles and of the prophets, where we have the truth being revealed by God and being given to us by them, that truth which comes down to our own day. It is that truth which sets us free, and it is that Truth – Who is Jesus Christ – Who gives us life. That is something which is a sure and solid foundation. It is something which stands as the guarantee for us that, no matter how strong the winds are and how heavy the rains, the foundation will not crack – and neither will we – if we turn to the Holy Spirit and pray.
If we look on the foundation upon which we are built and if we look to Jesus Christ Who perfects our faith, we will be strong, we too will be able to witness to the Faith even to the shedding of our blood, if that is what is necessary rather than to deny the Lord. All of that has already been granted to us because of the foundation upon which we are built. So, for us now, it is simply to live out that faith because, as Saint Paul said, we are strangers and sojourners no longer. We are members of that one body; we are members of that one temple; and it is the temple of the Lord. We are there to serve Him and to build up one another so that the temple will be complete and will be perfect in the Holy Spirit, and that we will give perfect witness, even if it is the witness of martyrdom, to our faith in Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.