Tuesday April 26, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 14:19-28) Gospel (St. John 14:27-31a)
There are a couple of very important points that we have to listen to in the readings today. First of all, Our Lord in the Gospel tells us that He gives us His peace, and in giving us His peace He says that it is not as the world gives peace. The world’s peace is an external kind of thing, but that does not mean there is anything internal. One can look back a few years ago, before there was any kind of armed conflict over in Iraq, and we could have said, “Our country is at peace.” The people in the country certainly were not at peace, but externally the country was not at war. Internally, there was a lot of chaos and turmoil in the hearts of the people because of all the selfishness and materialism and the fact that everything in America is focused externally instead of on the spiritual. So the Lord is telling us, Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. It is not the external stuff that He is talking about; it is what is on the inside. Then He goes on to talk about exactly what needs to happen, and He reminds us that the way He is going to show the world that He loves the Father is to do exactly what the Father has commanded Him – and that is to go to the Cross. That is the way He proved His love.
So then we need to look at it and say, “Well, our task is to do what God has commanded us to do.” And what is God going to command us? That is the next point we need to look at. Here is Saint Paul talking to the people in Lystra and Iconium after he had been stoned to death and was miraculously raised back up. He had come back into the city after going to a few other towns, and he said to the disciples that they had made: It is necessary – Necessary! It is not an option – that we must undergo hardships in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. And so if Jesus proved His love for God by going to the Cross and it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships before we can enter the kingdom of God, how are we going to show our love for God? By accepting the hardships, by taking on the sufferings that are going to be entailed if we are going to live a truly Catholic life. It is required; it is not an option.
There is only one way to prove love, and that is through suffering. Nothing else proves it. We can give our word to somebody about how much we love them, and it is not that they do not believe us, but we have not proven it. Love is proven only in suffering – and in no other way is love truly proven. Saint John would say that Jesus loved His own and He loved them to the end. He proved His love for us by going to the Cross for us. Now God has asked many saints throughout history to prove their love through martyrdom, but that is not the way most people have to do it. Most people simply have to prove their love by remaining faithful in the very difficult day-to-day circumstances of their lives and uniting their suffering with that of Christ. We have to do whatever our Father commands us. So that is what God is going to look at for us, and the only way we are going to know that (other than the obvious points of the duties of our state in life and being faithful to our baptismal vows and so on; so not sinning and doing what God requires of our state in life) is if we can go to prayer and allow God to lead our hearts so that we know that the things that come our way are in fact God’s Will for us. Then we can accept them. We can unite ourselves with Him and we can allow that suffering to transform us. And the suffering does not transform us into bitterness and hatred; the suffering transforms us into Jesus Christ, into love itself. That is what this is all about.
If we want to enter the kingdom of God, we are told in the Book of Revelation that nothing imperfect or impure can enter the kingdom of God, and we are told in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews: Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience through suffering, and when perfected… How was He perfected? Through suffering! He was, of course, already perfect as God, but it is to show us how we are to be perfected. The Lord told us also, Be perfect. He commanded it. It is not a suggestion; it is in the imperative form: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. God’s Will is made clear to us: Love one another. How do we love? Through suffering, through doing God’s Will, and proving our love only in that way. When we are willing to unite ourselves to Christ in His suffering, then we can be perfected, then we are doing God’s Will, then we can say that we have borne our share of the hardships which the Gospel entails, and then we will be truly prepared to enter the kingdom of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.