Be Hot or Cold
Thursday May 6, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 13:13-25) Gospel (St. John 13:16-20)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us, No slave is greater than his master, and no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. In the context in which Our Lord is speaking these words, it is just shortly after He has finished washing the feet of His disciples. We recall that that is an act which no master could even require his slave to do according to Jewish law because it was considered to be beneath human dignity. So Our Lord has lowered Himself to a point that is less than a slave, and then He says, No slave is greater than the master. And we recall that He tells us, You call Me ‘master’, and rightly so, for I am. If that is the case – and we do call Him “master”; we call Him “Lord” – then who are we to think that we do not need to serve one another, to place ourselves at the service of others? The Lord tells us, If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. It requires us to put it into practice, to be able to understand that He made Himself the servant – and, indeed, less than a slave – to each one of us.
Then He tells us that we are not greater than He. I think all of us would be quick to admit that is the reality, and yet when it comes time to really place ourselves in a humble position, most of us do not like that at all. Most of us like the idea of being exalted, but we certainly do not like the idea of being humbled. But Our Lord has humbled Himself: first, taking the form of a slave, as Saint Paul tells the Philippians; but then lowering Himself to be even less than a slave; and now giving Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament, the ultimate humiliation. Here is God, not only in the form of a man, but now in the form of a piece of bread so that we can eat Him.
Now with that in mind, we look at what He speaks regarding Judas. He says, So that Scripture may be fulfilled, the one who ate My food has raised his heel against Me. Recall that it was precisely at the moment Judas received the Eucharist that he got up and left to betray Our Lord. For us who receive the Eucharist, we have then two options: We either allow Our Lord to wash our feet and then turn around and wash others’ feet; or when Our Lord tries to wash our feet, we are the ones who raise our heel against Him. Those are really the only two options. Either we do what He did, or we refuse to do what He did. To do what He did shows that we are His followers because He says, If you understand what I did, blessed are you if you do it. The only other option He gives is to raise our heel against Him, that is, to betray Him.
When we know what it is that we are called to do, if we refuse to do it, we are being a Judas to Our Lord. We are not out-and-out betraying Him per se, but the reality is we refuse to allow Him to continue do His work in us and through us because we have somehow decided that we are too good for that. We will be quick to argue against that and say, “No, I want Our Lord to continue His work in me and through me.” The problem is that the way we want Him to continue His work in us and through us is in ways that are pretty impressive. We want Him to continue to work His miracles in us and through us. We would like to hear Him speak in us and through us. We would like to see signs and wonders worked in us and through us. We certainly do not want Him to be a slave in us and through us. We do not want to put ourselves in such a humble position. And because we will not put ourselves in such a humble position, neither will He work in us and through us. There will be no miracles worked in us and through us. He will not speak in us and through us. He will not be able to live in us and through us because we refuse to become like Him, and therefore we shut Him out. We raise our heel against Him, and we betray Him by not allowing Him to continue His work. That is where our choice comes in.
We are the ones who eat his food. We have two choices: to become like Him, and thereby allow Him to continue His work; or to raise our heel against Him, and to not become like Him, to not allow Him to continue because we refuse to be humble, because we refuse to lower ourselves to become a slave like Christ and place ourselves and our lives at the service of those He sends into our lives. Those are our only two choices. We would like to find a middle ground, but there isn’t one. We either serve Our Lord or we do not; it is one or the other. Be hot or cold, Jesus said, if you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of My mouth. The choice is ours: to serve Him or to betray Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.