Monday December 1, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 2:1-5) Gospel (St. Matthew 8:5-11)
In the first reading today, we hear about the Lord’s mountain and that it is from this mountain in Jerusalem that instruction is going to come forth for the people and that all the peoples are going to be drawn to it. That mountain, of course, is Jesus Himself and the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church. It is from the Church that truth comes forth. The Church is the guardian of the truth and Jesus Himself is that truth, and the Church is the one who has been charged with protecting that truth and preaching that truth. And so at the end of the reading when we hear the words “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” that is precisely the point. If we walk in truth, if we walk in Jesus Christ then we are walking in the light. If we choose any other way then we have chosen the darkness.
Now we see in the Gospel reading just exactly what that may entail for us. We see the centurion coming to the Lord and asking for the favor of the healing of his servant. When he speaks to the Lord and says, “You don’t have to come to my house; only say the word and my servant will be healed,” at the end the Lord says, “Nowhere in Israel have I seen such faith.” That is the kind of faith we have to have. Do we trust in the Lord? Do we believe, first of all, that He is the truth? And, secondly, do we believe that He is the truth individually for each one of us to the point that we would have so much faith and so much trust in the Lord that we are not going to question, that we are not going to doubt, that we are simply going to say, “Say the word”?
All that is required of Christ is simply to say the word. But that requires a huge amount of faith on our part to let go of everything else, to be able to say, “Let me get my focus solely on Christ, the Mountain of God, the Truth from which all instruction is going to come forth. And if I’m going to trust that this really is the truth then I don’t have to question and I don’t have to doubt because I know that Christ is the truth and that if I’m seeking instruction from Him that what I receive is indeed going to be the truth. Therefore, if I’m walking in the truth then I’m walking in the light and I needn’t doubt.” But that is where most of us get into trouble. We know in our heads that Jesus is the truth – we have heard it enough times and it comes right from His own mouth – but most of us do not really trust it. In our heads, we know; in our hearts, we do not believe. And so we fudge and we hedge our bets and we come up with all kinds of excuses. Most of us would not be able to hear from the Lord what the centurion did, that is: “I have never seen faith like this.”
Do we have enough faith in Christ to trust Him, to believe in what He teaches and Who He is? That is a huge risk for us because it means we cannot be in control. And that is made very clear in the first reading: “Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord. Come, let us go.” It means we have to leave our own self and we have to go to Christ. We have to look beyond ourselves and we have to put our trust in someone else. It means that we are going to enter into the house of the Lord, and Jesus is that Temple of the Lord into Whom we must enter. We cannot stay outside and look at the Temple from afar and say, “Wow! That’s an impressive Temple there! Look at the Lord; isn’t He great?” That is not enough. We have to enter into the Temple, we have to enter into the Truth, and we have to be united with Christ. But that means, again, having enough faith and enough trust to be willing to let our guard down, to be willing to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable that we can be absorbed into Christ, to be willing to die to self to the degree that we become one with Jesus Christ.
Objectively, it is exactly what we all want. Subjectively, almost all of us run away from it because we are afraid. That is where that faith of the centurion has to come. But we have to put the fear aside. We have to be able to go into our hearts and say, “If in my head this is what I believe and this is what I profess – that Jesus is the Truth, that He is all Love, that He is God – then I need now to believe it in my heart and to live it.” That is what the centurion did. He recognized the authority of Christ and he said, “You don’t need to do anything other than say the word and whatever you say is going to be done.” When we are willing and able to say that to Christ – “Only say the word and whatever You say is what I will do. Whatever is Your Will is what I want in my life” – then He will be able to look at us and say, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.” And we will be blessed because then we will be living according to the faith that we profess.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.