March 31, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Thursday Within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:11-26)†† Gospel (St. Luke 24:35-48)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Our Lord appearing to His twelve apostles gathered in the Upper Room. But the thing that is interesting is that when the two disciples who were walking along the road to Emmaus came back to Jerusalem the first thing that was said to them was ďThe Lord is truly risen and He has appeared to Simon.Ē And then the two disciples describe all the things that happened in the apparition that they had of Our Lord. Then Our Lord appears and they are all terrified, thinking that they are seeing a ghost. After hearing all about the appearances of Our Lord, still they had no faith. They liked the idea from afar, but when the reality is presented to them they immediately turn the wrong direction.
But we can also see, as we go down through the Gospel reading today, where the differences come. Not only did Our Lord show them His hands and feet, but then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. At that point, He gave them the grace to be able to see and to understand all the things that had been written. Up to that point, they did not understand. Then after the Holy Spirit was given to them on Pentecost, Peter could stand up and quote Scripture left and right, and show the people of Israel all the places where the prophets had spoken about the Lord, where Moses had spoken about the One Who is to come, and where the Psalms would talk about Christ. You wonder what happened in between. What happened in between was that Our Lord had explained all of these passages to them, and then they had the grace of the Holy Spirit.
We too have the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we need to pray and ask Him to open our minds and our hearts to be able to understand so that it is not just simply looking at things from a distance like the apostles did. They liked the idea that Our Lord had appeared to Peter, they liked the idea that He had appeared to these two disciples along the way, but still it did not have any kind of personal impression. When He appeared to them, they still thought they were seeing a ghost. They still rejected the reality of Our Lordís Resurrection. Now do not pray that the Lord will appear to you Ė that is not a good thing because the devil will be more than happy to provide something Ė but pray for the grace to have the openness of heart and mind to be able to accept the truth, to be able to embrace it, and to be able to live it. When we see the difference in the apostles after the Resurrection, these men who were terrified to even be seen outside suddenly were willing to die for Our Lord, not only willing just to go out and preach the Gospel, but to preach it to the point that they would be willing to die, to put their lives on the line, to let everything else go to the wayside so that they would spend their entire lives in service of the Gospel. This is what the Resurrection did for them. This is the change that took place because of Our Lordís Resurrection. Something similar can happen with us as well.
Again, it is not that we do not believe, but it is the problem that for many of us it does not get down into the heart. It really does not make much of a difference in our lives. We have all of the objective facts and we have all of the beliefs, but if it is not being lived, if it is not being embraced in the heart, then it really is not going to have a whole lot of impact on our lives. Then we are like the other apostles in the Upper Room who knew the truth Ė and they believed what was said Ė but when it came to a personal encounter with Christ they panicked. They were terrified. For us, we would run the same risk.
We need to make sure that we are asking the Lord for the grace not only to believe in our heads, but to be able to embrace it on a personal, deep level in our hearts so that it will change our lives, so that like the twelve apostles after the Resurrection we will be willing to put it into practice in our lives and to spend our lives in service of the Gospel, even to the point of death if that would be required. That is what we have to be willing to do. Otherwise, what we are doing is being fair-weather friends to Our Lord: ďAs long as itís easy, as long as itís convenient, then Iíll believe. But if thereís a problem then Iím out of here.Ē Well, Our Lord spoke in the parable of the sower and the seed about people like that; as soon as some persecution comes, they wither and fade, and away they go. We do not want to be that way. So we need to pray and we need to ask the Holy Spirit, Who changed the hearts of the apostles, to change our hearts as well so that we will embrace the truth in the depth of our being and we will allow our lives to be changed by the fullness of the truth in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.