Who is Your Father?
Thursday April 1, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Lent
Reading (Genesis 17:3-9) Gospel (St. John 8:51-59)
When God spoke originally to Abraham, He told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that kings and rulers would rise from him. Jesus tells us that Abraham saw His day. That is, God showed Abraham that the Messiah would be raised up from the stock of Abraham, that He would be the ultimate King, the ultimate Ruler, and that everyone would serve Him. Imagine, to the degree that Abraham would be able to understand, to know that God would become flesh from one who was in his lineage; and yet, to some degree at least, God revealed this to Abraham so that he would understand what was going to be taking place. And Jesus tells us that Abraham saw this and he rejoiced. In seeing this, Abraham once again had to make that great act of faith. This was something that would be another fifteen hundred years into the future for Abraham, and yet he believed what God had shown him.
So too for us now, looking back 2,000 years, we look at the same Person of whom we hear in today’s Gospel that some of the people thought He was possessed. If we recall what we heard yesterday, Jesus was speaking to those Jews who believed in Him. Now they are saying, “We know that you are possessed.” These are the ones who believed in Him! But, obviously, they did not believe in Who He truly was. They thought He was a prophet, they thought He was a holy man, but they could not grasp the concept that He was God. For us, we must go beyond the concept of theory. That is, we know in our heads that Jesus is God, we know that He is the Savior of the world, that He is the long-awaited Messiah for the people of Israel; but now we, the people of the New Israel who recognize Who He is and who proclaim our faith in Him, in order to share in that faith of Abraham and truly be his children in Christ, the question still is – Is it beyond theory and into practice? How much does it mean to us to say we believe that Jesus is God? How much does it mean to us to have Him at the center of our lives? To have a depth of prayer that recognizes Who He truly is? Not just as a doctrinal point but as a Person, one Person with two natures, one Person Who is both God and man, the One Who tells us, Before Abraham came to be, I AM, because He is the One Who created Abraham and He is the One Who made the promises to Abraham because He is God from all eternity.
Again, when we look at our own day-to-day lives, we can ask ourselves, “Just how much a part of our daily lives is Jesus? Is He there just for this one half-hour every morning? Or is He there for a couple of times a day when we set aside a little bit of time to pray? Or is He at the center of our lives? How much does it really mean to us to say that we believe in Jesus Christ? Is He the most important thing – most important Person – in our lives? Do our lives revolve around Him? Do the decisions we make have Him as the point of reference? In the way that we act, are we seeking to imitate Him as Scripture tells us we are to do?” These are some things that we can think about because it is not a question of whether we believe the doctrine.
Remember, Our Lord told us, Not everyone who cries out ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only the one who does the Will of My Father in heaven. So for us it is to make sure that we are seeking the exact same thing. He did only the Will of His Father; and if we are going to be members of Jesus Christ and we are going to profess our faith in Him, it is to do the same: only the Will of our Father in heaven. Remember too, though, that the people we heard in yesterday’s Gospel said, “God is our Father,” and Jesus said, If God were your Father, you would be doing the works of God. And so He said to them, You do the works of your father, and I do the works of My Father. Again, to give lip service to God and say that He is our Father means nothing unless we are putting it into practice, unless we are taking what we know in theory and we are bringing it down from our heads to our hearts and putting into practice what we know to be true.
So it is not only knowing that Jesus Christ is God, but it is to love Jesus Christ as God. It is not merely knowing that He is our Savior and our Messiah; it is to love Him as such. It is to love Him as the Son of Mary and as the Son of God, and it is to live His life. That is the only thing that is truly important. If we are going to call God our Father, we are to do what He shows us, what He tells us. We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and even more we are to allow Jesus to live in us and through us so that His life will be perpetuated on earth through each one of us. That is the kind of people who believe that He seeks, the ones who not only give lip service to Him but do the Will of His heavenly Father so that when we say that God is our Father it will be recognized to be true because the works of Christ will be done in us. That is what the promise to Abraham is ultimately about. It is to have children who are true to God, true children of Abraham who believe and act on that belief so that we will also be true sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.