April 5, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 42:1-7) Gospel (St. John 12:1-11)
As we embark upon Holy Week, the Church once again places before us the Suffering Servant Songs of the Prophet Isaiah. We hear today the first of them from Isaiah 42, and we hear something about the personality of what the Messiah is to be. That is, He will not be crying out, He will not be shouting, He will not quench the smoldering wick or crush the bruised reed. He is going to be very gentle in His approach toward those who are sinners; but at the same time, those who are sinners are going to have to make a very strong act of faith. In other words, He is not going to come looking real flashy. He is not going to be drawing lots of attention to Himself, but rather He is going to be humble. He is going to preach the truth but not in a way that is going to be real obvious to those around Him.
For instance, every time the demons would cry out the truth about Who He was – “We know who you are,” they would say, “You are the Holy One of God!” – Jesus would rebuke them and command them to be silent. When they asked about Himself, He gave Himself the title “Son of Man” even though He is the Son of God. Now it makes perfect sense if you think about it because by nature He is the Son of God; He took to Himself our humanity and that is the more extraordinary thing, therefore, that is the point He brought attention to. But it also diverted attention from His divinity because people would have to make an explicit act of faith in that. So while preaching the truth about God and about salvation, at the same time He is requiring that people will look beyond just what they can see and make an act of faith in Who He truly is, but without Him necessarily laying it all out as easily and clearly because then it would not be a struggle for anyone.
He is also, as we read, a covenant. For each one of us, as we are baptized we are made members of Jesus Christ; and being a member of Jesus Christ, we are incorporated into the covenant Who is Christ. That is the glory that is ours. When we can make that act of faith in Who He is, then we turn around and make that act of faith in who He has made us to be, because when we recognize that we have been incorporated into Christ, then we realize that that covenant is a Person. Just as truth is a Person, as we have talked about over and over again, so is the covenant. The old covenant was written on stone; the new covenant is a Person. It is living. The new covenant is dynamic, it is personal, and it is alive. So each one of us, being incorporated into this covenant, becomes a sharer in the very life and the very Person of Our Blessed Lord. This is what we have to be able to make an act of faith in: We, who are by nature human, have taken on the divinity so that we can become the children of God. Again, that requires an act of faith. It is not something that we can see, and it is not even anything that we can feel. But the reality is there; the truth of it is there. And so what remains is our acceptance.
When we see the work of Our Lord and the way that He operated, He raises Lazarus from the dead and then He just hides Himself away. He does all of these miracles and then slips away so that no one sees Him. He is not calling attention to Himself. That also means for us that it is necessary to seek Him. He is right there for us at any time, but we have to seek Him. We have to make the effort to seek the union with Christ. He has done everything to bring about that union with us, but we have to seek it out. We are the ones who are the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks with all of our sins, with all of our hurts and brokenness. We are guaranteed of His gentleness. We are guaranteed of His love. But we still have to make that act of faith so that we who have been hurt by so many people throughout our lives will be able to come to Him and be vulnerable and not be hurt, that we who are filled with so much sin would be able to come to Him Who is without sin; and rather than being condemned, we will be forgiven and we will be healed.
That is the personality of the One in Whom we put our faith. But it is more than just someone apart from us in whom we put our faith, rather because we believe then we are able to act upon that belief. We recognize our own dignity because we have now become sharers in that covenant and members of the very person of Jesus Christ so that it is not something apart from us, but it is part and parcel of who we are. All that is left now is for us to accept it, to embrace it, and to live it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.