Tuesday May 4, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 11:19-26) Gospel (St. John 10:22-30)
We hear Our Lord answering these people as they ask Him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us if you are the one.” He says, “I have told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in My Father’s Name testify to Me.” If we stop just to think about that statement, if somebody stood in front of us and said, “I am the Messiah,” we would all scoff and leave very quickly because obviously there is something mentally wrong with this person. At the same time, when we hear what Our Lord is telling us, that His works speak on His behalf, then we have to look at what it is that He was doing. He came down to this world and of His own power He healed people. He expelled demons, and they cried out regarding Who He was. He touched people. He taught them. All of these things He did and always at no cost. He never sought anything for Himself. When the people wanted to do something for Him, He would run the other direction. So we can see the utter selflessness in the way that He did things.
For the last 2,000 years, every saint that has lived can perform whatever miracle it is that they want, but nobody has believed that they were the Messiah. All of the works that have been done in these 2,000 years of Christianity have not brought anyone any problem with regard to someone thinking that that person might be the Messiah. And if we ask why (because, after all, the works that are done would testify to the person), the answer is very simple; that is, everybody else performs their works in the Name of Jesus Christ. It is in the power of His Name that these mighty works are done. It is in His Name that the demons continue to be expelled. It is in His Name that people are healed.
In all of the different things that are done, no one does it in one’s own name. You can try if you want and see how it works. Run up against some blasted demon and ask yourself, “Okay, if I tell it in my own name to get out, what’s going to happen? But if I pray against this stupid thing in the Name of Jesus, suddenly we are going to see a different kind of reaction. If I come against the demon in my own name, not only do I have no power, but far worse than that, I am actually opening myself up to all kinds of problems because then it is me all by myself against a demon. But if I come against the demon in the Name of Jesus Christ, then one stands behind the Lord and it is in the power of His Name.” And so, in one case, the demon can be cast out; in the other, you are going to have two people with demonic problems, not just one. You will find out very quickly that in your own name there is no power. I think we all know that without having to test it.
If we believe in the Lord, we will put that faith into action and act in His Name – which is exactly what we are told to do: “No matter what you do, do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him,” Saint Paul tells us. But that is really where the question comes: Do we really believe? When we look at the first reading, the faith of the early Christians was such that they went from town to town and they spoke to anybody who was willing to listen. That is because the Lord had made such an impact on their life that they were not going to be quiet. For us, well, we will go from town to town and we will talk about some diet that we found that actually worked, we will talk about sports, we will talk about the weather, we will talk about some personality that was on TV or somebody who is coming to town or music or whatever it is. But to talk about the Lord, well, we tend not to do that. At which point, one really has to ask, “How much does He really mean to me?” It is not just about “me and Jesus”. The very nature of that relationship is that it has to go beyond the self.
What tends to happen for most Catholics is that, yes, we believe – and we have talked about this before – but we believe in the head, we believe at an arm’s distance, and we do not really want to be affected by this belief at all. “After all, I’d have to change my life if I really believed, if I really acted on what I believed. More than just simply saying, ‘I don’t want to sin anymore,’ it would really change the way that I think. It would change the way that I act. It would change my priorities. Everything would be very different.” And most of us really do not want to do that, which is pretty tragic. On the other hand, if we would allow what we profess to get down deep, then what we would find is that we would actually call upon the Name of the Lord and we would see things begin to happen. And once we begin to see that this is the reality, then we are not going to be able to be quiet any longer because it is like anything else that we do: If we find something that works, we are going to tell the whole world about it. So the fact that we remain silent tells us that we really have not found that power in the Name of the Lord.
The early Christians knew that power. The saints have all known that power. Many of them have been put to death because of the Name of the Lord, and they continued fearlessly to speak out in His Name. So the works that we do, unfortunately, most of us try to do by our own strength, by our own power, and we do not get very far. But the Lord tells us that the works speak on His behalf. If we really want to bring the Lord out into the world, if we want others to recognize Who He is, then it requires a change first on our part to get away from the self, to stop doing things the way that we think they should be done, or in our name, or by our own power. We need to invoke His Name and we need to act in His authority with His power. When we do that, we will see the changes begin in our own lives. And when those changes begin to happen in our lives, others will see it. We will no longer be able to remain silent, and the works that we do in His Name will speak, not on our behalf, but on His.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.