Wednesday May 5, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 12:24-13:5a) Gospel (St. John 12:44-50)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes a couple of very important distinctions for us because there are certainly some people who might be tempted simply to look at Jesus on the natural level, see the works that He was doing, and put some sort of belief in Him, but not really the belief in the fullness of Who He is. So He makes very clear, Whoever believes in Me believes not only in Me but also in the One Who sent Me. As He has made clear in the readings we have heard in the last couple of days, He and the Father are one. And so it is a matter that if we are going to believe in the Person of Jesus Christ, it is also then to believe in the Holy Trinity because the three Persons of the Trinity cannot in any way, shape, or form be separated out. If we are going to believe in one, we have to believe in all. And not only that, but He tells us that the word He speaks is what He was commanded to speak by His heavenly Father.
With that in mind, He tells us, Anyone who hears My words and does not observe them… Now this is important because it is precisely what we keep talking about. We know what the word of God is, we have heard it over and over again, but we just do not want to do it. We want to do the parts that are easy, we want to do the parts that we like – those that are more convenient than others – but the parts that are hard, the parts that are difficult for us – the parts that maybe do not fit our personality or the way we would prefer to do things – we just sort of ignore that and we let them go. So the Lord says, Anyone who hears My words and does not observe them… and then after telling us that He will not condemn them, He says of these people: Whoever rejects Me and does not accept My word… Now this is the point that is important. To hear His word but not to observe what He spoke is to reject Him by not accepting His words, because His words are the words of eternal life, they are the Word of God. And so if we do not accept and put into practice what it is that He tells us, He is saying that we have rejected Him. It is not that we have rejected the fullness of Who He is; the fact is that we are not accepting the fullness of Who He is because we refuse to put into practice what He has said.
If we just consider the logic for a moment, it is simply to say that if we know this is the Word of God, and, therefore, if we know that it is absolute truth, why would we reject it? Why would we say, “Well, I don’t need to do that. That’s a little extreme, don’t you think? After all, think of what that would require and think of what people would think of me. That would be inconvenient to put those sorts of things into practice”? So to the degree that we refuse to put into practice the word of Christ, He makes very clear that we are rejecting Him. And what will condemn us on the Day of Judgment is the very word that he spoke because we knew what we were supposed to do and we did not do it.
What we need to keep in mind as we think about this is the manner in which Our Lord worked with regard to forgiveness when He was in this world. The sins of commission, He was very lenient about; He was very quick to forgive the things that people did. But when it came to the sins of omission, He did not have much tolerance for that. And so what He is telling us here is that if we commit the sin of omission by knowing the Word of God and refusing to put it into practice, that is what is going to condemn us on the last day – that we knew and we rejected Him – because what we need to be willing to do is accept the fullness of Jesus Christ. As I have mentioned over the last number of days, it is not simply an intellectual acceptance to say, “Oh, yeah, I know the Church teaches this, and I believe it.” The Lord tells us to put it into practice: Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the Will of My heavenly Father. He makes clear the same thing in Saint John’s Gospel. While it is necessary to be baptized, born again of water and the Holy Spirit, He goes on to speak about the ones who actually do what God wants them to do – who do the work of God. That is what He is requiring of us.
So as we hear this word spoken to us, it is not enough just to be able to sit back and think whatever we might think: “Those were eloquent words. How impressive He was! Isn’t it amazing how His mind worked to be able to answer the questions of the Pharisees in the way that He did?” That is not enough. It is not even enough to say, “It’s correct, it’s true, it’s perfect, it’s the Word of God,” or anything else. It requires that we take it in, and it requires that we mold our lives around the very Word of God. Remember, when we talk about the words Jesus spoke, we are ultimately talking about His very Person because He not only spoke the word of God – He is the Word of God. He speaks only what He hears His Father speak because He is the only word that His Father ever spoke. Therefore, He speaks nothing other than what His Father spoke. And so it is, once again, to recognize the importance and also to recognize exactly what it requires. If we are going to say that He is the Word of God and that He speaks the Word of God, then it is not an option for us to decide whether we want to put it into practice or not. If we are going to believe in Him and believe in the One Who sent Him and believe in the One Who has been sent forth into our hearts to lead us into all truth, then it is necessary not only to hear the truth but to live the truth.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.