Wednesday May 23, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1) Gospel (St. John 16:12-15)
Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading today that everything that the Spirit is going to teach to the Church comes from Himself. He has told us in the past that He speaks only what He hears from the Father. Now He tells us that the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own. He will speak only what He hears from Jesus. So once again we see a revelation of the Trinity. We see the two processions of the Trinity: the Son proceeding from the Father, and then the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. Jesus makes that clear again, He tells us, "Everything that the Father has belongs to Me," and "Everything the Holy Spirit will say He will receive from Me." Jesus receives it from the Father, and the Holy Spirit receives it from the Father through the Son, just as They have Their processions. That is what we mean in the Creed when we say we believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeded from the Father and the Son. From the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit are the processions in the Trinity. This deals with the very essence of Their being. It is not a chronological thing. It is not that the Father existed and then one day the Son began to exist and then another the day the Holy Spirit began or even one instant and another instant. All Three are simultaneous, but They work through one another because They are one.
Since 1054 that has been a stumbling block. This is the very point that Catholics and Orthodox were divided over. The Orthodox saying the Son proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Catholic Church saying the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Thanks be to God that has all been worked out now. The theologians have been able to see where the struggles were, the differences in the languages and the differences in the understanding, and figure out that really in essence we were saying the same thing. So it is a point where we are closer to unity. That is what we need to keep praying for, because the Holy Spirit is given to lead us into all truth and that truth is one. The greatest scandal, the Holy Father tells us, in the world today is the division among Christians. They are all claiming to have unity with Christ and are not even having unity with one another.
That certainly is something we need to think about among ourselves. People who even worship together and still can hardly tolerate one another. There is something that is particularly tragic about that. All of us believe in the same Faith. All of us receive that exact same Lord in Holy Communion. Jesus is united with each one of us when we receive Holy Communion and therefore we are united with one another because of that. We are united with one another because of our Baptism, because we are all Baptized into the Body of Christ. Then we have this unity with one another when we receive Holy Communion. But the way that we sometimes treat one another, one would never ever know that was the case. We need to make sure that charity is the factor that is overriding in our lives; that we are seeking to love the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; that we are seeking to love one another. If we are truly going to claim to love Christ, not just merely to believe in Him, but to love Him then we need to love those whom He loves. This is part of the truth that the Holy Spirit has been given to lead us into.
Each one of us needs to recognize what St. Paul told the people on the Areopagus, that the Lord has destined Jesus to judge the world with justice; and he tells us that He has endorsed Him in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead. This in not something that we can sit back with a flippant attitude about. Rather He has given us a commandment, and the Holy Spirit (we saw yesterday) was given to remind us of all He has told us. Today we are told He is given to lead us into all truth. None of us has any excuse: if we are holding a grudge; if we are carrying anger; if we are being judgmental; if we are doing anything that fails in charity, we are without excuse because the Holy Spirit has been poured forth into our hearts. He has been poured forth into the hearts of each of us to lead us into unity, to lead us into charity. So we need to get rid of the disension. We need to seek truth in charity. That is the goal of every Christian.
What it really comes down to is we need to get rid of the pride, and in humility of heart reach out to others and bring them to the truth. That does not mean in the least bit to water down the truth. I am not talking about any sort of false ecumenism that says let us only talk about the things that we agree about and forget everything else. No, we have to be about the fullness of truth. We cannot water that down. But neither do we beat people over the head with truth. The truth will speak for itself if we invite people to it; if we help them to see it; if we pray to the Holy Spirit that He will stir up their hearts and their minds to hear and to accept the truth. That is what St. Paul had to do with his preaching, that is what the others did, and the same is true for us. We need to trust in the Holy Spirit and not in ourselves, for that is the purpose for which He was given. If we truly believe this, and part of that truth is the love that we must have for one another (and that is not just some nice fuzzy feeling that we have,) it is truth and love that must be expressed in action. We must understand the unity that is there, and strive to live that unity by the way that we treat one another.
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.