Monday April 25, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (1 Peter 5:5b-14) Gospel (St. Mark 16:15-20)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us today that there are signs that are going to accompany any person who believes. He tells us that if we are baptized and live the faith, we are going to be saved. He tells us then that someone who has this faith is going to be able to speak new languages; they are going to be able to handle serpents; they are going to be able to cast out demons; they will be able to heal people.
Now you might look at yourself and think, “But I can’t do those things, so does that mean I don’t believe?” No. What it means is that there are some people to whom these gifts are going to be given, but it does not imply that they are going to be given to everybody. Each one of us has different gifts. Saint Paul makes that very clear when he talks about all the various functions that people have within the Church. In the Mystical Body, each person has his or her own function, and so it does not mean that everybody has all of these things.
But at the same time that we are looking at what it is to believe and to make sure that we are not going to be condemned, Saint Peter, on the other hand, tells us that we have to be sober and vigilant because our opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. What we see then, as Saint Peter says, is that we have to resist him, steady in our faith. We need to make sure that faith is strong. Not faith in the fact that we can speak in tongues or the fact that we can heal people or whatever it might be, but just simple faith in Jesus Christ. If we were to put faith just in some kind of external sign that we have, we are going to fail because the faith then is not in Christ but the faith is in something that we think we can do. And the real fear is that we would start to look at it as being our own: “Look what I can do,” rather than, “Look at what Jesus is doing in me.” That is the reason why He oftentimes does not provide these sorts of things, because our pride would get in the way and we would be lost. The devil is very shrewd, and he is going to look for any opening to be able to get in.
So God in His mercy does not give us all these extraordinary gifts because He knows we would be in trouble if we had them since it requires humility, as Saint Peter begins with. He tells us that we are to clothe ourselves in humility because that is the one thing Satan cannot get. He can attack us pretty much in any way except humility. If we have humility, Satan is done. That is what we need to be about. If we have humility, then we are going to accept every element of the faith. We can look right down the list of all the things the Church teaches, and the person who is truly humble is going to accept every last one of them without the slightest hesitation.
We have everything exactly laid out for us. If we are going to have that faith, as Saint Peter says, then we are going to suffer just like everyone else who has faith. If we have faith, the gift that God will give all of us is suffering and humiliations – and that is something we can be guaranteed of. Now you can look at it from the other side. Instead of saying, “Do I speak in tongues and do I have the gift of healing and prophecy and all these other things?” Do not worry about that. Is God giving you some sufferings and humiliations? If so, then you are doing just fine. If not, I would begin to worry. That is what it really comes down to because these are the things that Satan cannot deal with. As long as we are remaining faithful in the midst of the struggles, then we are going to be victorious in Christ; then, as we heard in the Gospel, we will not be condemned because we are truly believing in Christ. We are believing in Him not in the midst of extraordinary signs, but we are believing in Him and remaining firm in our faith in the midst of testing, in the midst of sufferings and trials and humiliations. When that is the way that we are, then we can rejoice and be glad because at that point the faith is being proven, it is being demonstrated, and we remain faithful to Jesus Christ in the midst of those kinds of difficulties. Then we can be reasonably sure of our salvation.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.