Thursday April 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:27-33) Gospel (St. John 3:31-36)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that the one who is of earth speaks of earthly things, therefore he does not understand the things that are heavenly; and the One Who is from heaven speaks the words of God, and He tells us that people do not accept the testimony that He speaks. On one level, it makes perfect sense. If someone came to us speaking about something that we have absolutely no experience of, something that would be so different from what we are accustomed to, we would naturally assume that this cannot be real and it cannot be right. So the Lord comes to earth and He speaks about His heavenly Father, He speaks about the things of eternal life, and people do not want to believe Him. They are stuck to the things of earth. It is what they know; it is what they are accustomed to; it is where they live. Therefore, if they are not looking beyond the earth, they are not going to listen to what He has to say about heaven.
If we want to be able to understand what Our Lord is telling us and if we want to keep our focus on heaven, it requires that we have to get our focus off the things of earth. The only way that is going to happen is through prayer. It is the only possible way. As long as we are living on earth, there is only one way to get our focus somewhere else, and that is to be able to enter that place. Now because the Holy Trinity dwells within each one of us if we are in the state of grace and because Our Lord is present right here in the Blessed Sacrament, we have heaven within. We have heaven right there where any of us can enter and be able to see what life is like in a different realm.
The question for most of us, however, is: do we really want it? The answer, for most of us, is “No, we don’t.” That is tragic because then we have rejected what God has told us. Why, if we were given the choice of heaven or earth, would we ever choose earth? It does not make any sense. If you have the opportunity to be completely engrossed in the things of heaven, why would you choose the things of earth over the things of heaven? But that is what we do. And the reason why we do it is, number one, because the things of earth are very easy to obtain. They are very sensual, that is, we can see them and touch them and smell them and feel them and so on, and so they are right there. Of course, we also have the enemy of our soul who is working to keep our focus downward rather than upward. And it also takes an awful lot of effort to be able to enter into the heart and unite ourselves with the Lord Who dwells there. If we are going to do that, we are also going to have to face all the things that are obstacles, all the things that are earthly or from beneath the earth that are in our hearts that keep us from being able to enter fully into that heavenly place. Most of us are afraid to enter in there because we do not know what it would be like without all the sensual stuff and we do not like to face the things that are painful and ugly in our lives. So we are afraid and we stick with the things of earth – and we reject the things of heaven.
But Our Lord tells us that anyone who accepts His testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. God has made the promises. He is trustworthy; He is right there. And so when the disciples ask Jesus, “Where do you stay? Where do you remain?” He said, “Come and see.” That is the invitation that He makes to us: Come and see. What does He tell us in John 14? Anyone who loves Me, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and We will tabernacle in him. Your soul is a heavenly place if God dwells there. So we can – even in this life – have our focus on heaven. And if our focus is on heaven, if our focus is on God, then we can understand the things of God. The more deeply we enter into that mystery of the Holy Trinity, of the eternal life that dwells inside of us, the more profoundly we will be able to understand the mysteries of God. That is what is being offered to each of us. If we choose the things of earth, we cannot and we will not understand the things of heaven because we have rejected the One Who is present. But if we accept His testimony, then we verify that God is trustworthy. To accept His testimony in this case is to be obedient, to come and see, to enter into the place where the Most High dwells, and to be able in all the splendor of God to understand the things of heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.