Wednesday April 21, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 5:17-26) Gospel (St. John 3:16-21)
Our Lord, in the Gospel today, tells us that the verdict with regard to the judgment of the world is nothing other than this: that the light came into the world and men preferred darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
Now when we look around, we see that there are lots of people in our society who will give lip service to Our Lord; and yet the reality is, if we look at the way these people live their lives, their works are evil. They will lie and cheat and steal, they will do all kinds of wrongful things as soon as they have the opportunity to do so, and all the time they will tell you about how much they believe in the Lord. What happens with these people is they do not come out into the light. When they are out in the light practicing their hypocrisy, they will speak about Jesus. But when it comes to actually doing good work, that is, doing the actual work of the Lord and living lives that are virtuous, that is something they do not want to do. And that is exactly what Our Lord is condemning. He tells us, then, that everyone who does wicked things hates the light and he does not come into the light because his works will be exposed, but everyone who lives the truth will come to the light so that his works may be clearly seen as being done in God.
We can see the in the first reading, for instance, how the apostles, who now understood Who Jesus was and understood the power of His Holy Name, went right into the temple to preach. And when they were thrown into prison, the angel of the Lord let them out in the middle of the night. Instead of saying, “Now go and hide yourself so that you don’t get caught,” the angel said, “Go right back to the temple and preach.” Now this did not make any sense to the average person because, after all, they knew these men were in trouble, that they had already been thrown into prison, that the chief priests and the Sadducees did not like them, and yet there they were. What they preached, everyone could hear. The way they lived, everyone could see. They did not have anything to hide. When they were brought back into trial and thrown into prison, anybody who had two eyes was able to see that they had done nothing wrong. They had preached the Name of the Lord and they had lived what it is they had preached.
We too have to do the same. We profess our belief in Him, and yet at the same time it is not enough. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life; that is the reason God sent Him into the world. And then He immediately follows it up by telling us that we have to do the work of God. It is not enough just to say that we believe; we have to act upon what it is that we believe. The Lord links these two things together completely, just as He does elsewhere; for instance, when He says, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the Will of My heavenly Father.” So, again, it is not enough just to simply say we believe in Jesus. Recall what Saint James tells us: “Even the demons believe and they tremble.” That is not enough to get them out of hell. So we have to make sure that the way we are living our lives is in accordance with the faith that we profess, to be able to preach with our actions far more even than with our words, to live a life that is consistent with what it is that we speak.
Now we also have to be clear that all of us, as we look at ourselves, will recognize some hypocrisy – which is why we all wind up in the confessional line regularly – because we know that we are sinners. But that is also part of what we acknowledge. We are not trying to hide the fact that we are sinners. We are not trying to say, “Because I believe in Jesus, I’m perfect,” but rather what we are saying is, “Because I believe in Jesus, I have hope, because I have a means to overcome my sin.” And that is precisely what gives other people hope that they too can overcome their sins. So we have to be careful not to get caught in the trap of thinking that we are just plain hypocrites because we are not perfect, or that somehow we have to be perfect before we could really claim to be followers of the Lord. No, it is striving for that holiness, striving for true perfection, not settling for mere mediocrity or settling for just trying to be in the state of grace. That is where we have to begin [remaining in the state of grace], but that is not the end; we have to be making progress and pushing forward and seeking a greater and more perfect union with the Lord at all times.
We see the weakness of the disciples. They did not try to hide their weakness, but what they did was to bring their strength out into the light – that is, Jesus – not themselves. That is what we are expected to do as well: to profess our faith in Christ and to live what we profess.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.