April 23, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 24:13-35)
Now for us, perhaps it is even more difficult. We have been taught these truths since we were young. We have heard the Gospel preached over and over again. Some of us have had the privilege of being able to receive Holy Communion every day for years. And the question is still: Do we recognize Him? Do we believe? Or are we so often like these two disciples who are willing to acknowledge all the things that happened? They were talking about Jesus and all the things that happened to Him as they were going along their way, but it did not make that much difference to them – their lives had not yet been changed. When they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, they got up and did something that most Jewish people would not do. The day was nearly over. At around six in the evening when the sun went down, you did not walk any longer; you only walked during the daylight hours. They got up and they walked during the night to the place where the disciples were to announce that they had seen the Lord.
But for most of us, it is not going to be that evident. Perhaps in our lives somewhere along the line we have had an experience where the Lord has made very clear the reality of His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, He has made very clear for us the fulfillment of all the Scriptures, but that sort of fades into the background after awhile because that cannot be what our faith is based on. So we really need to look and ask ourselves, “How much like these two disciples are we?” We know all of these things. They knew them; they heard the Lord preach them; and still, they walked away, hoping that He might be the One – no longer believing that He was the One – but hoping that He might be.
Is that not really where most Catholics are at these days? Unlike Peter and John after Pentecost, where they could walk to the gate of the temple and have absolute faith in Jesus Christ and say to this man, “What I do have I give to you. I command in the Name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.” They did not waver for an instant and the man stood up and walked. In fact, Peter pulled him up because the man probably did not believe. Peter did, but only after the fact [Pentecost]. Most Catholics, unfortunately, are like these two [the disciples on the road to Emmaus]. We hope that He might be the One and we kind of hedge our bets. It is like that old thing where, “If Jesus is God and if there is a Heaven and eternal life, well, then if you lived a good life in this world, that’s a good thing and you’re going to get someplace; and if there’s not, well, you lived a good life anyway and that was a good thing.” No, it isn’t “if” and “if not”. There “is”, plain and simple. Jesus Christ is God and He is the Messiah – there are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. But it is time that we stop playing this game of “maybe”, “hopefully”, “I guess”, “sort of”. That’s nonsense. It’s one or the other. You’re either in the boat or you’re out of the boat; there is none of this nonsense of keeping one foot on the pier and one in the boat.
We have a choice to make. If He is who He says He is – and indeed He is – then we need to make a wholehearted commitment to Christ. No more wavering, no more hoping that He might be Who He says that He is, but an absolute faith. That is the choice we need to make because if we stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment and say to Him, “Well, we were hoping that You might be the One. I’m glad to see that You were!” He is going to say, “Well, you’re not going to be so happy about it after this! Because I am the One and you didn’t believe. You hoped that maybe you could believe that I was the One, but you didn’t.” That is the reality we are going to have to face. No more hedging the bets. No more hoping that this might be the case. We know it is the case. We know the reality and there are no more games because we are going to be held responsible. And so we have to make the choice, and it needs to be a radical choice. No more wavering or waffling. Jesus Christ is Lord and God – and He alone is the One Who can save our souls.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.