April 15, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:11-26) Gospel (St. Luke 24:35-48)
Once again in the Gospel today, we have to be somewhat fascinated by the response of the disciples. Jesus had appeared to the holy women, He had appeared to Saint Peter, He had appeared to these two disciples along the way, the present topic of their conversation is the rising of Our Lord from the dead and how they did not recognize Him at first and that He made Himself known to them, and then He appears to them and they all think they are seeing a ghost. They panic and they are terrified even though the very topic of their conservation has been the resurrection of Our Lord from the dead! We can see that even though they had evidence of His Resurrection, there was no understanding of what it meant; just that it had happened, but they did not understand as yet. But as we hear in today’s Gospel, then He opened their minds to be able to understand the Scriptures and how everything written about Him had to be fulfilled: that He had to suffer, that He had to be put to death, that He was to rise on the third day, and that then from Jerusalem faith in Him would be preached throughout the world.
It is that faith in Jesus Christ that Saint Peter speaks about in the first reading, the faith that had made the crippled man whole. And Saint Peter says very importantly, “Why do you look at us as though this was some power or piety of our own? You must know that it is through faith in the Name of Jesus Christ that this man has been healed.” It is the same for us. Again, as we spoke about yesterday, we know that Jesus has been raised from the dead. We know that He is God. We know that He is glorified at the right hand of the Father. We know the promises that He has made. What lacks is not knowledge, but faith. Not the generic faith that says, “Yes, I believe that Jesus is God and He was raised from the dead,” but the faith that says, “In His Holy Name I will be healed.”
And not necessarily healed of all the physical ailments because sometimes it gives God greater glory that we would suffer with these things. We all know too well for our own selves that if we are plagued with some particular physical ailment, it keeps us down, and if we did not have it we would probably be out doing something really stupid. Therefore, God in His mercy allows us to suffer with whatever physical ailment we might have in order to keep us from being out doing foolish things. So it is a gift, not a curse. But far more important than any kind of physical healing that anyone might have is the spiritual healing. The forgiveness of sin is to be preached in His Name so that our souls can be healed, so that we would be able to be in the state of grace, so that we can do the Will of God – which includes the acceptance of the struggles, the pains, the difficulties, the illnesses (whatever they may be) that God has allowed in our lives, to unite those with His suffering and offer those to the Father. It is this, then, that not only brings greater healing for us but also obtains the grace for others to be able to be healed as well.
We must, of course, acknowledge that it is not through anything that we have done. What we have done on our own is to sin, pure and simple. That is the only thing we can truly take credit for in our lives. We can say that we cooperated with God, but most often that is begrudgingly. The only thing that we can actually stand up and say, “I did this,” is to sin. And so any holiness that we may have, any healing, any forgiveness, any positive growth, any virtue, all of this we must acknowledge has been done by the power of the Lord’s Name and by the power of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us and Who is working in us to unite us with Christ. We have to be humble as we approach these truths, as we look at what happens within ourselves. We have to be willing to acknowledge the truth.
Unfortunately, like the disciples, most of us are too afraid of the truth to want to even face it or admit it. So we run away from it. We are terrified of it and we never face it. Consequently, by never facing it we remain in our crippledness, in our brokenness, in our paralysis, in our illness, whatever it may be, because we do not want to face Jesus. What He is looking for is faith, the faith that says, “I believe in Him, in Who He is and what He has taught. I believe that He will heal me, that He will forgive my sin,” and then we are to put that faith into practice, to live it.
Far too often, we are embarrassed to bring our faith out into the world. We have fallen into the trap that the two things you do not talk about are politics and religion, but these days it is only religion because politics gets talked about all the time. Yet the thing that is most important and the only thing we are going to talk about for all eternity is Jesus Christ. So why are we afraid or embarrassed to talk about Him now? It was by faith in the Name and the Person of Jesus Christ that this crippled man was healed. And if it were not for Peter to have the courage to speak the Name of Jesus, that man would have continued to lie at the gate of the temple and beg everyday because he never would have been healed. How many people do not have their sins forgiven, how many people are not healed spiritually because we do not have the courage to bring the Name of Jesus and the Person of Jesus out into the world? We have to be the first ones to acknowledge the Faith, to acknowledge the Person of Christ, to be able to bring Him out into the world by the way we live and by the way we speak so that others – not through any power or piety of our own, but only through the power of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ – will be converted, will repent, and will be healed.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.