Friday January 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Week After Epiphany
Reading (1 John 5:5-13) Gospel (St. Luke 5:12-16)
Saint John tells us in the first reading that if we believe in the Son of God we have eternal life. If we do not believe in the Son of God, we have made God a liar, because it is God Himself, Saint John tells us, Who has testified on behalf of His Son. He tells us there are three different things that testify: the water, the blood, and the Spirit, and these three are of one accord; the water, being the divinity of Christ; the blood, being His humanity; and the Spirit, of course, being the Holy Spirit. Then he speaks about God the Father’s testimony to His Son, and that is the testimony that took place on Mount Tabor: This is My beloved Son; listen to Him. Then we have the testimony that is within our own selves because we have been given the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit, Saint John tells us, is truth. The Spirit was given to lead us into all truth, and the fullness of truth is the Person of Jesus Christ; therefore, the Spirit has been given to us to lead us more deeply and profoundly into the very heart of Christ Himself.
If we have all these testimonials given on behalf of Our Lord, then the question has to do with our own response. What is it that we are doing with what we have been given? We have been given the opportunity to truly believe. As we have spoken many times, that is not just the theoretical, generic sort of thing of “Oh, I believe in Jesus.” Big deal. So does Satan. That did not get him out of hell and it did not keep him from going there. And so it is not just some nice little lip service that we give to the Lord, but it is putting it into practice. No one has eternal life just because something rolls out of their mouth. We have eternal life for living what it is that we profess.
When we see, for instance, the man who came to Jesus in the Gospel reading today, he had to make an act of faith and he had to put everything on the line to come to Our Lord and fall before Him and truly believe that he could be healed. Now it may be that many of us have done the exact same thing. We have gone to the Lord and said to Him, “Well, if You will it, You can heal me,” and we walk away untouched. Does that mean, therefore, that we do not have faith? No. It means that (for whatever reason) at that time it was not God’s Will to heal us, that allowing us to suffer with whatever ailment we may have is actually better for us than to be healed. Now that does not sound like a very nice thing to most of us, but when we look at it from God’s perspective, if having that ailment is what is going to help us to grow closer to Him, if having that problem is going to keep us from going out and doing stupid things that we might well do if we had the fullness of our health or ability or money or whatever it is that we are asking for, then God in His mercy is not going to give us those things because He knows we would go out and sin. We would lose our salvation and He is not going to do that to us. What we have to have is that kind of faith in Jesus Christ that we are going to live, not just to give Him lip service, but to live it.
So, once again, what do we hear at the end of the Gospel? Jesus heals all of these people and then He goes to the deserted places and prays. This is the Son of God – He is God Himself – and He needed to pray. He spent the night in prayer. He did not just crank off a quick little prayer to God; He prayed. And we think that we do not need to? Where is our faith in Christ? If we are going to claim to be His followers, indeed to be His members, we have to do what He did. The only way we are going to be able to do what He did is to pray, which is also something that He did. If we are going to say that we believe, then we need to put it into practice; and the only way we are going to put it into practice is to pray because that is where we are going to know the Will of God and that is where we are going to get the grace to do the Will of God. Otherwise, it is all empty words stating that we believe in Jesus but not living it, being like everyone else. It is not a good thing.
If we are truly going to live the life that we are professing so that we can have eternal life, as Saint John tells us that we do, if we truly believe in the Name of the Son of God, then we have to enter into the Son of God and we have to live the life of the Son of God. That is the call that is given to each one of us. It is our dignity and it is the blessing that God has given us. But that means we are not going to be like everyone else, because they do not believe in the Name of the Son of God. So it is incumbent upon us, then, to live the life that we profess; and that begins with prayer and entering into the very heart of our Blessed Lord so that He can live His life in us and through us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.