Monday December 10, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week in Advent
Reading (Isaiah 35:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 5:17-26)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear about a holy way. There is going to be a road that the Lord will set up, and it is for those with a journey to make, it says, for those who are called to holiness. It is not for those who are sinners; it is not for those who are fools; but it is for those who are on the way toward Zion. Zion, of course, is Heaven. Consequently, it is a road that we must walk upon if we want to be able to make it to eternity.
That road is going to encompass several things. First of all, as we see in the Gospel, at the center of it all, for us, is the forgiveness of sin. In other words, when I said earlier that it is not for sinners to walk on that does not mean for those, like all of us, who are infected by sin; but rather, it is not for those who want to be in sin. It is for those who want their sins removed, and for those who want to overcome the effects of their own sins. And so we need to make sure that we are coming to the Lord because we are the ones who are paralyzed.
When we consider how the Church has put these two readings together today, this journey is clearly not going to be a simple one. Think of the man in the Gospel and his friends: In order to come to Jesus, they did not just walk up and set the man down; they had to climb up on the roof and lower the man through on his mat. So we see the kind of effort that is going to have to be made. If we want to be healed of the spiritual paralysis from which we suffer, if we want to overcome our sinfulness and the effects of our own sins, it is going to take a great deal of effort. We have to make the decision to put forth the effort. We are the ones who have to decide whether we are going to get on this way or if we are going to continue in the way that we have been walking.
Most of us wander aimlessly through life. We [can] ask ourselves, "What is the direction that we are going? Where are we headed?" Again, the Lord tells us it is the road to Zion. If you were walking through the desert area and you were able to see the mountain in the distance, you could simply set your sight right on the mountain and walk straight toward it because it stands out. You do not need to be wandering aimlessly not knowing exactly where you are going because it is clear where that mountain is. We need to get onto that path, onto that way that the Lord has set up, and that way is Jesus. He is the way. He is the only means for our sins to be forgiven and He is the only path that is going to lead us to holiness, the only path that is going to lead us to salvation, the only way for us to be able to get to Heaven. And so we need to be on that path.
It is not just to stand off in the background and maybe hang on to the coattails, but it is to be on the path – not next to it, not near it, not touching it, but on it, walking the path which is the footsteps of the Lord Himself. That is the way that each one of us needs to be walking. We need to follow Jesus Christ, and we need to follow in His steps. So we need to walk that way; we need to get on it, but we are the only ones who can make that determination. The Lord is not going to force you to get on it. He is inviting you; He is calling you; He wants you on that path. But it is your choice, and it is not an easy choice. It seems an obvious choice, but we know that it is not quite as obvious as it appears. When it comes to the point of having to crawl up on the roof with a paralytic in tow, open up the roof, and lower [the paralytic] down, it is to say, "Do I really want to get rid of all the things that are causing the spiritual paralysis? Do I want to break the attachments? Do I want to get rid of sin? Do I want to remove everything that keeps me from getting onto that path?"
That is where our struggle lies. So we need to make that choice. We can be like the Pharisees, who can look at Jesus from a distance and be kind of impressed by what He is doing. We can be like the other people who walk away saying, "Wow! We’ve seen great things today." Or you can be like the paralytic who, with the help of his friends, was willing to do whatever it took to be able to get to Jesus. It was only because of his effort that he was healed so that he could stand erect and walk home. That is what the Lord wants for us. Home is Heaven. He wants to be able to heal us - if we want to be healed. He wants us to come to Him, to make the effort to be able to place ourselves before Him so that He will be able to say to each one of us: "Stand erect, and come home."
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.