Friday July 29, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 John 4:7-16) Gospel (St. John 11:19-27)
In the first reading today, we heard in the First Letter of Saint John that anyone who acknowledges the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God. In the Gospel reading, we hear about Jesus going to talk to Martha and Mary after Lazarus had died. As Martha comes to Jesus, she says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would never have died.” The Lord reassures her that her brother will rise again. And when Martha acknowledges that she believes in the resurrection, Our Lord tells her, I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even he dies, will live, and whoever is alive and believes in Me will never die. Then He says to her, Do you believe this? She says, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, He Who is to come into this world.” It is precisely in this kind of acknowledgement that Saint John would be able to say that God dwells in us and we in Him, because Martha acknowledged the reality of Who Jesus is, that He is the Son of the living God.
If we are going to say that Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to ask ourselves, “What follows from it?” There are lots of people, who, if you ask them, “Do you believe in Jesus,” will say “yes.” If you ask them, “Do you believe that He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity Who became incarnate in the Virgin Mary,” they will say “yes.” But then if you start asking them, “Do you believe this and this and this,” they will say, “No, I don’t,” because they do not believe in the fullness of Jesus Christ.
If we are going to say that we believe in Jesus so that God dwells in us and we in Him, it means, number one, that we have to accept every single thing that He has taught us. If we are going to say, “He is God,” and then we are going to say, “But I don’t believe what He taught me,” then what good is it to say that He is God? What we are telling Him is that He is a liar, that He said some things as God that are not true. I do not think any of us would want to say any such thing. If He is God, then everything that He speaks is absolute truth. Therefore, to believe in Jesus is to believe in the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ. That includes every single teaching that has come forth from His mouth and every single teaching that has come forth from the Mystical Christ, that is, the Catholic Church.
Now we can even go further than this. We ask ourselves, “If we are going to say that we believe He is the Son of God, and therefore that we want God dwelling in us and we want to dwell in Him, what remains?” It is not enough to say that we believe in Jesus. That is absolutely critical; it is not enough, however. To say that we believe in Him, we must, as I have already mentioned, believe in everything that He taught. Then we have to live it. We all know that God dwells in us and we in Him only if we are in the state of grace. If we are out committing mortal sin then God does not dwell in us because we have chosen sin, we have chosen the lies and death over the truth and life. So to say that we believe in Jesus Christ is therefore to live the life of Christ, because if He dwells in us and we dwell in Him then we have to live as He lived and we have to allow Him to live His life in us and through us. He never sinned. And so if we are going to say that we believe in the Son of God, it is to live the life of the Son of God. It is not a generic statement to be able to say, “I believe.” Remember what Our Lord told us in the Gospel: Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. They believed that He was the Son of God. They even said, “But, Lord, didn’t we cast out demons in Your name and work miracles in Your name?” And He said, I tell you, I do not know who you are.
I do not know who you are. Now that is the real thing we have to ask: Does Jesus know who we are? He will know who we are if we are spending time with Him in prayer. He will know who we are if we are striving to live His life in this world. He will know who we are if we are seeking union with Him. If all we say is that we believe, big deal. Saint James says that the demons believe and they tremble. Satan knows that Jesus is the Son of God, and he rejected Him. It is not enough to have knowledge in your head and say, “I believe” – it must be put into practice or we will have no part of Jesus. If He does not recognize His image shining forth in us, then when we stand before Him, He will say, I tell you, I do not know who you are.
The goal of our lives is to be conformed to Jesus Christ, to believe in the fullness of the Person of Christ, and therefore, generically, to believe in Who He is; and specifically, to believe in everything that He taught; and practically, to put into practice everything that we believe.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.