Tuesday April 3, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Lent
Reading (Numbers 21:4-9) Gospel (St. John 8:21-30)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that it is when we lift up the Son of Man that we will realize that He is I AM; that He is Yahweh; that He is God. But only when He is lifted up. This is the important thing that we need to look at. Throughout history, God has sent prophets, judges, and saints. He has sent people who were able to do extraordinary things. There have also been many people who have come into the world with various claims of different types about how they themselves are indeed the Messiah. Yet, we can ask ourselves, "How do we know that Jesus really is who He says that He is? If there are other people who made that claim, how do we know that He is the Messiah?" If somebody came along today saying, "Iím God. Iím the Messiah. Iím the one that God sent into the world," how would you be able to say absolutely and definitively either: "Yes, that is true," or "No, that is not"? Our Lord told us it is only when we lift Him up from the earth. Only in the Crucifixion will we come to know that He is God; that He is one with His heavenly Father. Any of us, if we were insane or totally caught up in ourselves and wanted to lie, could say the words of Jesus. But who of us can prove it? Who can live it? So, how do we know that He is the Lord? It is only when we study the crucifix.
There are many Christians who want to remove the Lord from the crucifix. They want to say, "Well, Jesus is risen from the dead now. Heís not on the cross anymore. We donít need to worry about that." But note the reading that the Church puts in juxtaposition to this because they recognize the importance of Moses making a seraph. When the people had been bitten, they had to look at the bronze serpent up on top of the pole in order to be healed. So too, those of us who have been bitten by the sting of the serpent, by Original Sin and by our own sins. The only way we are going to be healed is when we look at the One who has been lifted up from the earth. When we look at the One who became sin for us. When we look at the One who "became a curse for us," as Saint Paul says. He took on our sins. He took on the curse for us. He is the one who healed us when we could not be healed. It is only in that, that we come to see who He is. If we do not look at the crucifix; if we do not study the crucifix very carefully; if we do not spend time to meditate upon the Crucifixion of Our Lord, we will never come to understand fully that He is God and what it is that He has done for us.
Looking at the Resurrection isnít going to be enough to do it. You cannot separate the Cross and the Resurrection. Looking just at the miracles and His teachings isnít going to do it. Someone could read the teachings of Our Lord and say (as the people did in His own day), "Heís crazy! This guy is really caught up. Heís got the Messiah complex." If you go to the hospital, in the psyche ward, you are likely to find three or four people who claim to be Jesus. You are also likely to find a couple of other people who simply claim to be God. There are a lot of people who, in their insanity, make some of these same kinds of claims. So we need to look beyond simply that.
The reason we believe in His teaching is because He went to the Cross. The reason why we can look at all the other things that he does is because He went to the Cross for us. Had He not done that, we would have no reason in the world to believe that He is the Son of God. There is no way we could ever be able to say He is the one. Nothing else really, truly proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt; except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Saint Paul says, "May I boast in nothing but the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. May I boast of nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." It is the power of the Cross that heals us. It is the power of the Cross that sets us free. If we are really going to be the Christians we profess to be, there is no Christian without the Cross because there is no Christ without the Cross. So if we want to be healed of the bite of the serpent, we need to look at the one who has been lifted up and hung on a pole - The One who is truly I AM: Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and the only savior of the world, the One who proved it with His very life.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.