Wednesday December 4, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10a) Gospel (St. Matthew 15:29-37)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we are told that on the holy mountain God is going to destroy death. And in the Gospel reading today, we hear about the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes as the Lord feeds the people. Again, in Isaiah, we hear that there is a connection between these two things. Isaiah says that on this holy mountain God will provide a feast of rich food and of choice wines. Then it is in the very next line that we hear He will destroy death forever. Well, this food and wine that God is providing, He, of course, has changed now into His own Body and Blood. It is the food of life. It is the food that destroys death because the food is the Lord Himself. Therefore, as we receive Our Lord into ourselves and we are in the state of grace, we grow in grace, we grow in life, in God’s life, and death is destroyed within us because life reigns within us.
Now, it is not something which is magical. It is something which, needless to say, requires an act of the free will on our part. The Lord can give Himself to us and we can reject Him. We can come to Him and say that we want to be part of Him, we want to have His life and to share His life, but then not do anything about it. You can just ask yourself: If you had an opportunity to give yourself, your whole life, entirely to somebody else, first of all, what would happen if the person rejected it? Or what would happen if the person said “yes” but then refused to change, refused to do anything with the gift that you had given? Well, that is what we do to Our Lord. We have not refused Him as many do, but so often we refuse to change, we refuse to do anything with this gift that He has given.
The idea of this gift is not only to give life, but to provide for us the means to the fullness of life, which means that we have to change our lives to be like His, to allow His life to be lived in us and through us. It is in that way that each one of us on this mountain of the Lord, who is Jesus Christ, will indeed have death destroyed within us. It is in this way that life is going to reign within us. It is not enough just to say that we have received Jesus in the Eucharist because Our Lord does tell us that whoever eats the bread that He will give will live forever, but it is a matter of making sure that we recognize the gift which is being given and the Giver of that gift and that we allow our lives to be changed by the Gift we receive so that His life is lived in us and so that with Saint Paul we will be able to say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That is the way death is destroyed in us. That is the way that life reigns in us.
That is the way it needs to be. It is because of who we are. We are baptized into life, therefore, we need to allow that life to reign within us. This is something, which on the logical level sounds pretty obvious, but on the practical level it is not so easy for us to do. To die to self in order to live for Christ has not proven in any one of our lives to be a particularly simple thing – which is pretty sad – but it tells us how attached we are to ourselves. And so we have come to the mountain of God, yet we are clinging to death. We need to let go of death, allow death to die within us, so that life can reign and we will be conformed to Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.