Monday April 26, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 6:8-15) Gospel (St. John 6:22-29)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes a distinction for the people and He says to them, “I tell you, you are not looking for Me because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Now considering that the sign Jesus worked was the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, one would say, “But isn’t that the same thing?” The answer is “no”. One is looking at God, and the other is looking at the self. The fact that they were able to fill their bellies is what caused them to want to seek the Lord even more, because they could get something for themselves. On one level, it looked the same; but the fact of the matter is Our Lord is telling them, “You missed the whole point. You didn’t understand.” Then He says, “This is the work of God, that you would believe in the One Whom He sent.” They would, of course, immediately be able to say, “But we do believe in you. We saw what you did. We ate the bread. That’s why we’re looking for you.” But the fact is that they did not believe in Who He was. They believed that He was there. That was not an issue. They believed that He was real – they could see Him, they could hear Him – that was not the issue. They did not believe in the reality of Who He was, being God. And so when Our Lord then says to them, “You are to work, not for food that perishes, but for food that brings you unto life eternal,” He again makes this same distinction. One is focused on the self, on filling the belly; the other is focused more on the Lord.
And that is precisely what He is telling us. Where is our focus? Is it on the other world, or is it on this world? Is it on the self, or is it on God? Once again, we have to ask a question: Do we recognize and believe in Who Jesus is? If the work of God begins with the point of being able to believe in the One Whom He sent, as we have spoken before, that does not mean just simply sitting back and objectively saying, “Oh, yeah, I believe in Jesus.” It is not even enough to say, “Yeah, I believe that Jesus is God,” or even to say, “I believe that He is the Messiah,” or even to say, “I believe He is both God and man.” That is not enough. It is to say, “I believe in the Person, and therefore in the fullness of the Person and Who He is and what He teaches. Therefore, my life is no longer going to be the same, because of what I believe.” It has to make a difference in our lives.
It is not something we can keep at an arm’s distance, because a person requires a relationship. Therefore, to believe in the One Whom God has sent in order to be able to do the work of the One Whom God has sent – that is, to be able to do the work of God – requires that we have to enter into a relationship with Christ so that we can know what it is that He wants, so that we can look beyond the self; because when one loves another person, then what you do is seek to serve that person. We can look at it and say, “Well, what does Jesus do for me?” Then we are looking at the fact that we filled our bellies with bread. If we look at it and say, “I believe in Who He is, and I want to serve Him and do His Will,” then we are looking at Him because we recognize the sign that He worked. It is not so much just about an external sign; it is what the sign points to. The sign demonstrates for us Who this Person is.
So we need to look very seriously at that question because it is a pretty subtle distinction, but a critically important one. Are we looking at things just for our own gain? Are we looking at it for what we get out of this? Are we keeping Jesus at an arm’s distance? Or are we looking at Him and saying, “Seeing the signs that Our Lord worked points directly to Who the Person is, and knowing Who that Person is requires that I have to make some changes. It requires that I have to enter into a relationship. It requires that I have to seek Him and seek His Will and seek to serve Him in all things.” That is what it requires. Otherwise, we are going to be seeking Him only for ourselves – and that is precisely what He condemns in these people.
They wanted Him to be their king. So do we, but we want Him to be our King for the right reason and in the right way. He fled from the way that they wanted to make Him a king. We have to accept Him as He is and for Who He is. That is exactly what He is looking for: to recognize the signs that He has worked, to see that that sign points precisely to the Person and to the proper relationship with that Person, and to love Him and serve Him with our whole life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.