Tuesday May 18, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:22-34) Gospel (St. John 16:5-11)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that He is going to the Father and when He returns that He is going to convict the world on three points: on sin, on righteousness, and on condemnation; sin and righteousness, of course, being exact opposites of one another; and righteousness being the way that we are called to live our lives, that is, to live our lives in rejection of sin.
If we consider what Our Lord tells us, He says, Sin, because they refuse to believe in Me. Now, on one hand, we can look and say, We are responsible only for what we know. But the fact of the matter is that we know Jesus is Lord and we know what the truth is. If we refuse to accept that truth and live according to the truth, then we are the ones who are responsible for sin. But it is not that so much either because in this case He is telling us that it is a refusal of people to believe at all, but they all know. If we look at our society which has become neopagan, it is made up primarily of people who used to call themselves Christian; and, all of a sudden, they have abandoned the Lord. Even the pagan peoples who live in this country have heard plenty about Jesus to be able to know Him and to be able to believe in Him, and yet they have chosen against Him. They are without excuse. It is not as though they are living in the backwoods of some strange land that has never heard of Christ, but rather these are people who know better and yet they have chosen themselves over the Lord.
And then He tells us it is about righteousness: righteousness, because He is going to the Father. In other words, the only ones who are going to be able to go to God are the righteous. They condemned Him as an unrighteous person, as a criminal, and yet He is the Righteous One above all others. He also lays out for us the pattern: If we are going to be righteous, we are going to be ridiculed, we are going to be rejected, and we are going to have to suffer just like He did. It is going to be a proof of the righteousness. When we look at the Book of Wisdom in the second chapter, we are told exactly that: Let us condemn him to a shameful death and let us have a proof of his righteousness, of his gentleness. So the Lord is asking each of us not only to live in an externally righteous way, but to be internally righteous.
When we look at Paul and Silas in the first reading, for instance, they are beaten with rods, they are thrown into a prison, they are chained by their feet and they are singing hymns to God! How many of us would be willing to do that? Most of us would probably be screaming and complaining and wondering why God abandoned us. With other prisoners there, maybe we would actually pray, but heaven forbid that anybody might know we were Catholic. So the thought of singing hymns and psalms to God at that point is something that most of us probably would not be willing to do. But these men were living righteous lives. They suffered for it and they continued to live exactly in the same manner. The Lord will ask the same of us.
And then condemnation, the Lord tells us, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. Yet he is still the ruler of this world. Once again, we see not only the distinction between sin and righteousness, but we also see the reward for each. Those who are righteous get to go to the Father. Those who want to be like the ruler of this world get to be with the ruler of this world for eternity because they will be condemned. They are condemned not only for failing to believe in the Name of the Lord, but they will be condemned for failing to live according to the way of the Lord.
So we have to make sure as we look at our own selves that we are accepting Who Jesus is, the fullness of Who He is, and that we are living according to that fullness, that we are living righteous lives, that we are living upright and proper lives, that we are living lives of prayer and holiness. That is what it is to be righteous. Otherwise, if we claim to be followers of Christ and we refuse to live according to the ways of Christ, but rather we want to live according to the standards and ways of the world, then the Lord tells us that is where the condemnation is going to lie. In a nutshell, that is exactly what Our Lord is telling us.
We have a choice to make: either believe in Jesus and live what we profess and go to heaven, or refuse to believe in Him and follow the ruler of this world Satan himself and be condemned. Those are the only two choices. We can no longer be playing footsie with this. Too many Catholics are trying to say, Im Catholic but I want to be just like everyone else. It does not work. To be just like everyone else is to immerse yourself in the filth of this world, and we cannot do that any longer. It is time that we step aside from that and put our faith into action, that we look very seriously at what it means to follow Jesus Christ. What does it mean to believe in Him? What does it mean to love Him and to put that into practice?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.