Friday June 1, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week of Easter
Reading (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) Gospel (St. John 21:15-19)
As we draw near to the end of the Easter season and the celebration of Our Lord's Resurrection and now, most recently, His Ascension and we prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Church gives to us these readings where we see that the apostles are going to be condemned and martyred. We could wonder why the Church would give us these kinds of readings when it is still the Easter season. It is because it is this kind of disposition of the apostles that demonstrates the truth of the Resurrection, of the Ascension, and of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that is natural. We have seen what happened on the natural level. They all hurdled up into an upper room and were terrified. They would not even come out to let anybody see them because they were afraid that somebody might be opposed to them.
Now, we see that they are willing to die for Christ. We see that transformation which takes place in a very short period of time for the apostles. We also see (as we have explained many times before) the differences of the questions that Our Lord asks. He asks Peter twice if he loves Him on the highest level of love. Peter responds, "Lord, You know that I am Your friend. You know that I love You with the love of friendship." The third time Jesus asks, "Peter, do you love Me with the love of friendship?" Peter finally says, "Yes, You know everything. You know that I love You with the love of friendship." Jesus comes to Peter's level and then tells Peter that He is going to raise Peter up to His level. At that point, Peter could not love with the perfect love, with divine love, with charity, or with 'agape' in Greek. But most of us probably cannot, either. The wonderful news is that rather than Jesus sitting on high saying, "Well, until you get up to My level, I am not going to deal with you," He comes down to our level, like He did with Peter.
But He is not content with just leaving us there. He does not want just a natural kind of love because the Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts is the love of God. The Holy Spirit is the love that unites the Lover and the Beloved, the Father and the Son. He is the love of God Himself poured into our hearts. He is called the Sanctifier, the One who makes us holy. Holiness is love - not natural love, but supernatural love, divine love. We see this happening for Peter as the Lord told him how he was going to die. Notice what Saint John says: "This was to indicate the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God." Most of us would not think of something like that as being a means of glorifying God. But every little thing we do, if it is done with divine love, glorifies God.
The Lord reaches down to each one of us. He asks that each one of us would strive to love with this divine love that He Himself has infused into our hearts. He is basically saying to us, "Get away from the natural level and start to live on the supernatural level." Live as the person that God has made you to be - that is the challenge for each one of us. Live as one who shares in the divine nature, one who shares in the divine life, one who has the Holy Spirit in grace, one who receives Jesus in Holy Communion. We do not operate merely on the natural level as Catholic people. We are called to be sons and daughters of God operating on a supernatural level, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
As Our Lord looks at each one of us, perhaps there are a few here today who will be able to say, "Yes, Lord, I love You with that divine love. I love You perfectly, as You love me." Most of us probably cannot. So the Lord says, "Do you love Me with the love of friendship?" At least that we can honestly say 'yes' to. Then He says, "Follow Me." Learn from Him how to love on a divine level. Pour yourself out for Him, as He poured Himself out for you. Follow Him on the road to Calvary, on the road to the Cross; on the road that leads to the Resurrection, to the Ascension, and to being filled with the Holy Spirit; so that we can love Him with the divine love that He has given to us and poured into our hearts; so that we can love Him in return as He loves us.
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.