Thursday December 29, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Reading (1 John 2:3-11) Gospel (St. Luke 2:22-35)
Saint John, in the first reading that we heard today, tells us that anyone who says that they know the Lord but does not keep His commandments is a liar. Then he goes on to talk about how we are called to live in the light. Yet he says that if we hate somebody we are in darkness because that goes directly against the commandment of Christ, which is to love our neighbor, even to the point that He specifies it and says, Love your enemy. Now that is not an easy task because some people act in a way which is not particularly loveable. Of course, we are not called to love what they do; we are called to love the individual. So we have to be able somehow to look beyond the actions and some of the unfortunate things that are present within some of these individuals and learn to treat them with charity, to have a disposition of charity toward each person.
That is a heroic thing that is being asked of us. Yet, should we be surprised? After all, if Saint John tells us that we are living in darkness if we hate then what that means is we are not living in Christ. Simeon, in the Gospel reading, held Our Lord in his arms and praised God; and in part of the praise of the Lord he said, regarding the Child: This is the light to the nations. Jesus is the light. Saint John makes that clear in his Gospel reading and says it explicitly, that He is the light that has come into the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome Him. Jesus Christ is love. And so He has commanded us to love, which we have talked about many times–He has commanded us to do the very thing He created us to do. But more than that, now we can look at it and say, “We are members of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is love.” The reason Saint John would tell us we are in the darkness if we are not loving is because Christ is love. So if we are not loving, we are not living our life in Christ in its fullness, and therefore we are not in the fullness of the light; we are choosing darkness over light.
The worst part about that for us is that it violates our own dignity and it is a contradiction within our own self. Jesus is a sign that was to be contradicted; we ourselves should not be self-contradictory. If we are going to say that we are members of Christ then we have to live the life of Christ. If we are going to say that we are going to walk in the light–because He is light, He is truth, He is love–then we have to be children of the light. It is exactly what He told us we have to do. We have to live the truth, which is exactly what He told us. And we have to love, which is exactly what He commanded us. This is not anything new. That is what Saint John tells us: It is not a new commandment; it is one you had from the very beginning. But then he tells us that it is new; it is new in the manner in which it is going to be lived out in us. That is the point we have to be able to look at. If we are going to say that we love Jesus Christ, that we are members of Christ, then we have to live the life of Christ. We have to be the light. We have to be truth. We have to be love. To be conformed to Christ requires these things.
Now that means, as we know, that we are not going to be accepted. We are going to be weird in this world. Praise God! Jesus was a sign to be contradicted. If we are going to live the life of Christ, people are going to reject it. That is okay. They rejected Him, they will reject us. He told us that. They hated Him, they are going to hate us. He told us that too. So if we are going to sit back and play this little game of “Well, I don’t want to be rejected and I don’t want to be hated” then we are not living the life of Christ. We are choosing darkness over light; we are choosing selfishness over love; we are choosing falsehood over truth. We need to make a decision as to whom we are going to serve. To serve Christ is to reign. To serve Christ is to have freedom. To choose to serve the worldly powers, to be accepted by the worldly ones, that is to be enslaved. It is to live in darkness and falsehood. It is to give up our freedom in Christ. Freedom in Christ is to know the fullness of joy, the fullness of peace, the fullness of truth, the fullness of love, and to walk in the light, the brilliant light Who is Christ, Who came into this world as love, as truth, as light, and calls us to live that exact life.
That is what He places before us. It is not just a neat idea or something theoretical, because we are members of Jesus Christ, and if we do not live the life of Christ we are liars and the truth is not in us. Jesus is the truth. We are walking in darkness and the light is not in us, because He is the light; we walk in hatred because love is not in us, and He is love. How can we say that we are in Christ, but we are not? How can we say that we are light and truth and love if we are not? We cannot have it both ways. We need to accept our dignity, we need to see who we are, and we need to live the life to which we are called, to walk in the light, to have the freedom of the children of God who know the truth and who live the truth in love.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.