Thursday April 28, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:7-21) Gospel (St. John 15:9-11)
Our Lord in the Gospel reading commands us to love one another and He commands us to remain in His love. Now we have looked at exactly what that means, as He has spoken prior to this about how He keeps His Father’s commandment, that He does what His Father tells Him, and that He proved His love for us by being obedient right up to the point of death. It is for us also that if we are going to prove our love it is going to be in hardship, in suffering.
We see some of that, for instance, in the first reading. Here we have this first major problem in the Church: Are the Gentile converts to become Jews before they become Christians? Do they have to be circumcised? Since the earliest of the Christians were Jews, they understood what the law of Moses required and therefore they believed that this was a necessity. But then you have Peter, Paul, and Barnabas who were speaking otherwise. When the disciples finally came to the conclusion through the intercession and work of the Holy Spirit, they realized that, no, the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. The New Covenant superseded the Old and therefore you did not have to become a member of the Old Covenant in order to become a member of the New Covenant. Undoubtedly, that caused a split. I am sure there were many, especially from the Pharisees, who had become Christian who left the Church at that point. But the disciples did not back off from the truth even though it was going to cause difficulty for some of the people.
And so love is not about being gushy; love is not about being “nice” as we would think of it. Obviously, love requires charity, because the highest kind of love is charity. It seeks always what is best for the other person. But it is never best that we keep the truth from somebody. It is never best that we would violate somebody, or use somebody, or treat somebody in a way that is beneath his or her dignity. So when we look at what the disciples did, knowing that the decision was going to cause some problem, probably some great anger and even cause some of the early people who had become Christian to leave the Church, they still had to stand for the truth; the truth, of course, in love. The disciples were willing to speak the truth even though it would cost them, not only cost them in the sense that some would leave the Church, but the apostles probably were slandered and they were probably blamed for a lot of things.
That, of course, has not changed. All we have to do is look around and look at the reaction to the election of our new Pope. There are all these unfortunate souls who, for 26 years, have been saying, “Well, the next Pope will allow women priests, the next Pope will allow abortion, the next Pope will allow contraception, the next Pope will allow gay marriage (or whatever you want to call that unfortunate thing).” He cannot. Now they are having a fit because we have a Pope who is not going to allow anything that is wrong. He cannot; He is infallible and it is not open for discussion. Once the decision has been made, it has to remain – not because the Church wants to be mean, not because the Church wants to exclude certain people, but because it is the truth. We are made for the truth. If we do not accept the truth, it is not the Pope’s fault and it is not the Church’s fault; it is our own problem. We can point fingers at the Pope and we can call the Church names and we can leave, but the Church did not do anything wrong and neither did the Pope. It is our own problem.
Now it is interesting that the Lord tells us that if we remain in His love His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete. Look at what happens to those who choose what is not true. They become very angry and bitter. They become extremely uncharitable. But for those who choose the truth and embrace it, the Lord is promising joy because the truth will set us free. To be united with Jesus Christ will actually transform us more perfectly into the divinity of Christ. What could be more joyful than being one with Jesus! That is what is being offered if we will accept the truth wholeheartedly. Even when some of the truth may be difficult for us personally, we realize that God Who loves us perfectly wants the best and He wants the truth because the truth will set us free. If, in the midst of the hardship that we might experience from it, we will accept it humbly and live it, then in time we will recognize that it is indeed right and correct, and the joy of Our Lord is going to be in us. When we live the fullness of the truth, then our joy will be complete.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.