Tuesday May 10, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 20:17-27) Gospel (St. John 17:1-11a)
In both of the readings today, we hear a similar message. Saint Paul, speaking to the elders at the church in Ephesus, says to them, “I know that none of you to whom I preached the Gospel will ever see my face again.” And Our Lord in the Gospel says that He is no longer in the world. They are in the world, He says, but I am coming to You. So it is a similar message by both to be able to say to the people, “You are not going to see me any longer.” Yet, at the same time, there is also another similar part to the message. Saint Paul tells these elders that he takes responsibility for no one’s blood because he had preached the Gospel to them in its fullness and he did not shrink from telling them the truth. Our Lord also speaks similarly when He tells the Father that He has given to these men that the Father has given to Him all that brings them to eternal life.
Eternal life is nothing other than to know God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. That is simply the Gospel that Saint Paul preached, and it is the Gospel everyone else has to live and preach, that is, Jesus Christ. He is the Good News, and it is He Himself Whom we must accept. Again, not that generic thing of saying, “Oh, I believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” That is not enough. It is part of it, but that is not all. It is to believe in the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ Who is Lord and Savior. It is to believe in everything that He taught and everything that He is. So when He says, This is eternal life: to know You, the one true God and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent, to know the one true God is different from just knowing about the one true God.
We also see something else similar in both of these readings. Saint Paul says to these people that he does not know exactly what awaits him, but he knows that imprisonment and hardship are coming because he has been warned of it in one place after the next. And Our Lord is speaking the words of the Gospel today at the Last Supper. It is right before He is going to go to the Cross, and He is speaking about the glorification that is going to be His very soon and in the glorification that He had from before the world began. Again, He is speaking about His own divinity because nothing existed before the world began – except for God. So we see the suffering that both are announcing.
Consequently, we see the pattern clearly laid out for us. We need to accept the fullness of Jesus Christ. We need to live and preach the fullness of Jesus Christ. Part of the fullness of Jesus Christ is His suffering, and we need to accept that. Saint Paul, as he looked at himself, said, “It doesn’t matter because life doesn’t matter to me anymore. All that matters is that I can finish the task which God gave me and remain faithful to the Lord.” That really is all that matters, because for someone who truly believes, death is life. If they put you to death, you get to go to heaven. If you are a martyr, there is no Purgatory. These things are good news for a saint. For most of us, we would run the other way, but the saints embraced the Cross and they desired to be nailed to it.
We can look at our own selves and ask, “Are we truly accepting the fullness of Christ, including His Cross? Not just simply looking at it from afar and saying, “I’m glad He did that. I’m glad I don’t have to!” If you are going to be a true follower of Christ, you do have to; you have to be with Him on that Cross. It is not enough to look at it from a distance and say, “I believe that He did that.” That is not going to get you anywhere. We have to go much deeper. Remember again the words of Saint James: Even the demons believe and they tremble. Satan knows that Jesus died on the Cross. Satan knows that Jesus is God. Satan knows what the truths are, but he rejected them and he did not live them. It is not enough just to simply believe in certain truths, but rather we must embrace the Person and the life and the mission of Jesus Christ.
That is the Gospel, and only when we are living it fully and preaching it fully by the way that we live will we be able to say that we take no responsibility for anyone’s conscience or for anyone’s blood because we have not shrunk from the truth. But if that is going to be the case then we know we are going to walk the same path as the Lord, the same path Saint Paul walked and all the other saints, and that is to be glorified with Him in this world in order to be glorified with Him in the next, to be united with Him on His Cross so that we can be united with Him in His exaltation in heaven.
That is what this is all about. When we can get to the point of truly and honestly saying, “Life doesn’t mean anything to me anymore except that I can finish the course which the Lord has laid out for me and that I can be faithful in the ministry of accepting and living and believing fully in the very Person and the teaching and the life of Jesus Christ,” we know at that point what eternal life is – not knowing about it – but truly knowing it because we will live it and we will enter into it to know God and to know Jesus Christ Whom He has sent.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.