Wednesday January 2, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Week Before Epiphany
Reading (1 John 2:22-28) Gospel (St. John 1:19-28)
In the first reading today, Saint John tells us that whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ, he is the antichrist; not necessarily the one individual that the world still awaits as the Antichrist, but rather, the antichrist spirit. There have certainly been many such individuals and now, of course, our world is filled with them. We also have lots of people who sort of give lip service to Jesus, but that is about all. This, too, is really in the same vein. It is people who hedge their bets a little bit: they are not sure that they want to outright deny Him – just in case He might actually be who He says He is – but they really are not going to put their faith in Him either because they are not sure that He is who He says He is. That, too, really falls into the same category. We either have to have faith in Christ or we are without faith in Christ; it is not a halfway sort of deal.
So we need to make our own decision for ourselves and we need to say, "Do I believe or do I not?" If the answer is "Yes, I do" then we need to act upon it. We need to put ourselves wholeheartedly into the love of Christ and into the following of Christ. Otherwise, if we start waffling and wavering depending on whom we are with or what the circumstances might be, we find out that our faith is not really what we wanted it to be. In essence, then, we become as one of those who is "the liar" as Saint John says. We definitely do not want to fall into that category.
Yet at the same time, we each need to learn a lesson from Saint John the Baptist. Saint John the Baptist, out in the desert, recognized very clearly who he was; and more importantly, recognized who he was not. For each one of us, if we are not going to put our faith in Christ then the question is where is it going to be? Now we could say that we will put it into somebody else. We could put it into Buddha or we could put it into Mohammed or we could put it into some New Age bizarre form of some spirit that is out there somewhere. Most of us probably are not doing that. And so if our faith is not in Jesus then it has to be in the self - and that is the trouble. When they asked Saint John the Baptist "Who are you?" he was very clear: He was not the Messiah; he was not the one they were looking for; he did not proclaim [himself] who they wanted him to be. All that he did was point to someone else. "There is another who is among you," he said, "whom you do not recognize, and the strap of whose sandal I am unworthy to untie. He is the Messiah."
And He remains among us unrecognized by most people. Not among us in the same way that He was 2,000 years ago, but among us nonetheless: Present among us in the Blessed Sacrament, present among us where two or more are gathered, present among us wherever there is a person in the state of grace; the Lord is there. We need to be able to make the determination of the same question that was asked of Saint John the Baptist: Who are you? We are not Christ. We are members of Christ, but we are not the Christ. And I do not think anyone here would be so arrogant as to suggest that you think you are the Christ. So the question, then, is not really so much "Who am I?" because if we are members of Christ and we do not believe in Him then what does that say about us?
The real question that each one of us needs to ask is "Who do I believe that He is?" It is the question, not that Saint John the Baptist was asked by the Pharisees today, but that Jesus asked of His apostles: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Who do we say that He is? The only way we can understand who we are is if we first understand who He is. And if we are not 100% convinced that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, then we cannot know who we are because we are members of Him. It really comes down to that. If somebody were to ask you "Who are you?" how would you answer? Would you be able to answer? It depends first on the other question: Who is Jesus? Who do we say that He is? Are we wavering and waffling? Are we walking the fence? Do we switch depending on which way the wind is blowing? Or are we wholeheartedly convinced that He is the Christ?
If that is our faith then we need to live it; we need to embrace it completely – 100%. No more questioning; no more waffling; no more doubting. We need to put our faith in Christ and we need to live it. That is the only way we are going to have the promises fulfilled, and the promise Saint John told us in the Gospel is nothing less than this: eternal life. We either have to put our faith in Him or we are going to have to put it somewhere else. There is no hope in ourselves. And so, the [answer] is up to us. Who is He and who am I? They are absolutely related, and the second question can only be answered after the first one. It is critical for each one of us to answer that question: Who do you say that the Son of Man is?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.