Thursday May 5, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 18:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:16-20)
Our Lord tells His disciples in the Gospel today that they will weep and mourn while the world rejoices, but then their mourning will turn into joy. Now we know, of course, that was the case with regard to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It was also the case with the fact that they had to live their lives in this world for a number of years after the time of Our Lord’s Resurrection and then finally they could be put to death and then raised to life and brought to eternity in heaven. But it is also a pattern that we see over and over again in our own lives.
In the first reading, we can look at what Saint Paul was doing. He was preaching the Gospel to the Jewish people in Corinth, and when they did not want to hear it he went to the Gentiles. Imagine Saint Paul – who was such a staunch Pharisee – it must have broken his heart that people did not want to hear the truth. They did not want the Lord. Yet, at the same time, imagine the joy he had when the Gentiles accepted the Lord. We know that in our own lives it is the same pattern. There are things that happen which bring us great sorrow, and then on the other side of it there are things that occur which bring great joy. At the same time, these things can happen simultaneously. There may be one thing that is bringing a great amount of joy to our lives, while at the same time there is something else that brings a great sorrow. Some things are very brief and some things are very long, but the fact is the pattern remains.
What is necessary for us is simply to keep our focus on the Lord because that is where all of our hope comes from, and, consequently, it is where all of our joy can come from. The joy the world gives is brief and it is passing. There is nothing that lasts, as far as the world is concerned. If something happened today that was a joyful occurrence, then it is over and you move on to the next thing. When something happens with the Lord that brings joy, it does not just pass immediately; it is something which remains for a long time. We can look back at it and we can still have great joy even a long time after the event. We recall that Our Lord told us that the joy He would give is not the kind of joy the world gives, and He told us it is a joy that will not be able to be taken away. So if we want that true joy, that deep joy, it is going to be found only in the Lord – not in all the material things around us, not in anything that the world has to offer, but only in God.
We will weep and mourn as long as we are in this world because we are watching things spiral completely out of control. By itself, that would be fine, except that there are people who are being taken up in it. There are children being swept away by all of the filth and all of the nonsense. They have thrown themselves into this unfortunate mess, and they think that they like it. So there is much cause for grief, much cause for mourning. Let the world go where it is going to go because we know who the prince of this world is, but we need to pray for those souls who are being swept up in it. But even while the world goes down the tubes, we can still rejoice because we have the Lord. In the midst of all the unfortunate things that happen, Jesus is right there with us.
And so we can look beyond all the stuff of the world and we can still be filled with joy. That is what this world needs to see. And the people who are swept away in the tide of unfortunate things this world has to offer, it is what they need to see. They need to see joy because we know that in our country there are very few people who exude any joy at all, let alone a deep, abiding kind of joy. So while we mourn what is going on with our children, with our families, with our friends, with all the people we can see going down, we can still be joyful because we have the Lord and because others are turning to Him as they recognize the emptiness of what this world has to offer. If we continue to be faithful to Him, then eventually when our day comes we will be granted a joy that is beyond anything we have ever known, a joy that will never lessen, a joy that will never be taken away, because we will enter then into the face to face vision of Christ, the One upon Whom we have kept our focus in this world. On that day, that joy will never be taken. We will be filled with the joy that is Christ Himself. That is what is being offered to us. On that day, the world will mourn and grieve – not us. Now we can mourn and grieve but we can still be filled with joy, to keep our focus on Jesus, to know the joy of Christ, and to look forward to the joy that will never end.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.