Monday April 19, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 4:23-31) Gospel (St. John 3:1-8)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that we have to be born again by water and the Holy Spirit, which is exactly what happened for each one of us on the day we were baptized. Now the question has to do with what follows from it. The Lord tells us that what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit. As Our Lord by nature is pure spirit and yet took our human nature to Himself and therefore was born also in the flesh, He is both spirit and flesh; and so it is with us. By nature, we are born of the flesh; but through the power of the Holy Spirit at the moment of baptism, we are reborn according to the spirit so that we too are both spirit and flesh. Even by nature, that is the case because we are body and soul. But it is not merely a natural spirit that we now have; through baptism, it is a supernatural spirit, the Holy Spirit. And so we have been reborn according to the Holy Spirit in a divine manner, which means, as we know, that we are able to operate on two different levels just as Our Lord was. We have been raised to a supernatural level of acting and being – literally, to be able to act in a divine manner. That is something which is not possible on our own, but only through the grace of God. Yet it is available to each and every one of us because we have been baptized and the Holy Spirit has been given to each one of us so that we are able to accomplish the tasks of God.
So what we have to be able to do is to pray, to ask the Holy Spirit to work within us so that we will know the Will of God and we will be able to carry it out. Now the thing we have to be careful of is to recognize that sometimes– in fact, most of the time – the Will of God is not going to be anything that is extraordinary. That is, He wants us, of course, to be obedient to the duties of our state in life. So whatever it is that God has asked of us, we know that is His Will. Sometimes we look at the lives of the saints and we see the extraordinary things they did and we think that we have to do those sorts of things if we are doing God’s Will. That is not the case. If God makes clear that what He wants is something extraordinary, then, yes, that is what we have to do. But under ordinary circumstances, God is asking ordinary things.
The difference is that we can take those ordinary things and we can do them in an extraordinary way. Or do it the other way, we can take what is natural and we can do them and accomplish them in a manner which is supernatural. If we are doing them for the Lord, if we are doing them truly out of love, then even the most ordinary things become divine. And so when Saint Paul says, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus,” what he is telling us is precisely this same point. Even the most ordinary things of life – eating and drinking, doing our daily tasks, whatever it is – if we do it all in the Name of the Lord, it becomes holy. It is raised from just a simple day-to-day task to something which actually becomes salvific. It leads us toward heaven. It obtains grace for us. And because we are doing it out of obedience and also out of charity, out of love for the people around us and those entrusted to our care, then all of those things also become helpful for those people because it is serving others out of charity. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, “Who blows where He wills,” Jesus tells us. He leads each one of us according to the path He has chosen for us.
Again, we have to be very careful never ever to compare ourselves to someone else and say, “Well, the Holy Spirit is doing this in that person’s life. I don’t see that happening in mine, so there must be something wrong.” That is not the case. However many people are sitting here, the Holy Spirit is going to work in that many ways in this many lives. Each and every one of us is going to be asked to do different things. Some things, of course, are going to be very similar. But even in the lives of two people who are called to do the same thing (that is, the same state in life and the same duties of life), even among those people the Holy Spirit is going to work differently based on your own personality and the talents He has given to you and what it is that He is going to ask of you and the situations of your life as they are. So we do not look at other people to ask what the Holy Spirit might be doing, but rather we need to look to God because it is in prayer that we are going to discern what God is asking of us.
What we can be guaranteed of is that obedience to the duties of our state in life is required. Then it is a question of what God is going to ask – if He is going to ask – anything beyond that. But it does not matter what it is that He is asking; what matters is the manner in which we carry it out, that is, to be generous, to be wholeheartedly seeking the Will of God, and to be carrying it out in love. If we are willing to do that, then we take the things which are natural and make them supernatural. We take what is ordinary and we make them extraordinary. In our human way, we are able to operate on a level which is beyond us. That is, we are able to do even our most menial human tasks in a divine way so that we give greater glory to God and we serve the people around us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.