Thursday April 26, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:27-33) Gospel (St. John 3:31-36)
In the first reading today, Saint Peter stands before the Sanhedrin and tells the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin that "God raised up Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging Him on a tree. He whom God has exalted at His right hand as ruler and Savior is to bring repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins. As a proof of this, we testify to this and so does the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." When we listen to the Gospel, Jesus also speaks about the Holy Spirit. He tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who will speak on His behalf and testify about Him; that the One whom God has sent speaks the Word of God, and He does not ration the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is there in abundance. The problem is, as Our Lord makes clear in the Gospel reading, that very few accept His testimony. He came from Heaven, He testifies to what He has seen and heard, but very few accept His testimony. Those who do accept it, He says, will have eternal life; those who reject it will have eternal condemnation.
It sounds like we could almost fall into a little bit of predestination; that is, only certain people have been predestined to accept the Word of God and everybody else is going to be condemned. That is not the case. As the Lord makes very clear, the Holy Spirit is not rationed by God. While it is true that only certain people will accept the Holy Spirit, it is not because God has only picked a few of us, and He is just letting everybody else go their own way. God, in His mercy, has given the Holy Spirit to all of us. He has provided the Holy Spirit in abundance and he does not ration the gift of the Holy Spirit; it is there for anybody to say "Yes."
When we hear His words about no one accepting His testimony, but those who do will be saved, how grateful we must be that God has given to us the grace to be able to say "Yes." It is something that most of us take for granted because it is there everyday, throughout the day. Consider the fact that the vast majority of people do not believe, and refuse to believe no matter how much evidence you give to them. As the philosophers have said: For those without faith, no proof will ever satisfy; but for those with faith, no proof is necessary. All we need is to believe in Jesus Christ. You can stack one proof on top of another, and these people will not believe because they have rejected the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is why we need to pray so desperately for those people who do not have faith - that they will open their hearts to receive that gift that God wants to give to them and they will be able to say "Yes" to Jesus.
But we also need to pray for ourselves - that the same gift of faith will grow, and will get deeper and greater within us. Just because we have it does not mean we cannot lose it. When we look around and see all the people who have wandered away from the Lord, who have fallen into worldliness; and, even worse, have gotten into this pagan nonsense that is going around our nation, and around the world at this point; we realize that could be us. We cannot sit back arrogantly and think that we are immune from this sort of thing, none of us is; but we do have the Holy Spirit. If we cooperate, if we pray, if we try to live a good, moral life and keep ourselves always in the state of grace, then we have every reasonable assurance that we will not fall away. But we always need to keep in mind that the possibility exists. We can never arrogantly think that we are simply bound for Heaven and that is that, there is nothing that can keep us from it; because we ourselves can keep ourselves from it. So we always need to pray. Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, pray for the gift of faith, pray to be more obedient always to the Lord and to seek His will in all things. Then, within each one of us, as He does now and will continue to do, the Holy Spirit will testify on behalf of the Lord. We, in turn, who have received this gift of the Holy Spirit, will be able to testify on His behalf; not only by the words we speak, but, more importantly, by the way we live.
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.