Friday April 8, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:34-42) Gospel (St. John 6:1-15)
In the readings today, we see the humility of Our Lord and also of the apostles. Our Lord, after multiplying the loaves and fishes, and giving them to the people to eat, realizes that the people are going to try to make Him king. He did not come for that purpose. He is the King, but He is not merely a bread king, He is not merely an earthly king – He is the King of the Universe. But that is seen and recognized only upon the Cross. It was in the working of these signs that the people understood on one level, but completely misunderstood Who He truly is. So He withdraws to the mountain because He does not want them to come and give Him any kind of earthly accolades; rather He wants them to be able to look beyond what is on the material level to look at what is truly the spiritual part, what it was that He was trying to do. In order to do this, the people had to be able to simply look at the sign that He had performed rather than looking at the One who had performed the sign.
Now when we see what comes from this and how this can apply to our own lives, we now see what happens with the apostles. They are brought before the Sanhedrin, they are told that they are not to speak in the Name of the Lord anymore, and then they are flogged. The apostles rejoiced that they were found worthy to suffer for the Name of the Lord. That is the kind of humility that comes from recognizing the sign that Jesus performed, the sign which, of course, indicates for us the Eucharist and the Lord’s presence among us and Who He truly is, the sign that points to the reality of the Person of Christ, that He truly is God. He is the prophet that Moses promised would come, but He is more than a prophet – He is the Christ. That is exactly what the apostles went out and preached, and because they firmly believed in Who He was, they were willing to suffer and they were willing to rejoice in their suffering for His sake.
That, then, is something each one of us can look at. How much we like to have the earthly accolades, how much we like to have the attention of the people, how much we would like to be the one who could work some sign for some selfish reason so that people would notice us. Jesus withdrew because they were looking at Him rather than at what He had done. If we truly believe in the Lord, then what is required of us is humility. What is required of us is to keep our focus on Him, to be willing to accept whatever it is that He sends to us, and to be able to rejoice in the suffering for the sake of His holy Name. Are we willing to do that?
Right now, as we sit here, the man who has done precisely that is being buried: Pope John Paul II. He did not look for earthly accolades. He accepted what God gave him, which was immense suffering. If you look at his life, from the very beginning it was suffering. The first place that the man goes when he is elevated to Pope is a room that they call the “chamber of tears.” It is not some victorious thing where the Pope says, “Look how great I am! Notice me!” Rather it is to recognize what it is that he is called to do. He lived it, and he lived it in the most extraordinary way. He did not look for anything for himself. He pointed to Jesus and he suffered with Jesus.
We have had the incredible privilege of having such an example for 26 years placed right in front of us. Now it is for us to continue on, to live the faith that we profess, and to live it by uniting ourselves with Christ. Not seeking anything for ourselves, but seeking humility, uniting ourselves with His suffering, following His example, following the example of the apostles, following the example of Pope John Paul II. All of us have this opportunity. Are we willing to be humble? Are we willing to serve? Most importantly, are we willing to suffer with the Lord? Not just to suffer with grumbling and complaining, but to rejoice when we have been found worthy to suffer for the sake of His holy Name.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.