Monday May 10, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 14:5-18) Gospel (St. John 14:21-26)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us that whoever loves Him will be loved by Him and will be loved by the Father, and that He will reveal Himself to that person. When the disciples ask, “What happens that You reveal Yourself to us but not to the world?” the Lord answers and says, Whoever keeps My word is the one who loves Me. I will reveal Myself to him, My Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling place with Him. And then right after that He promises the Holy Spirit, Who is going to be sent upon us. So the Holy Trinity, as is made very clear right there, is going to have His indwelling within each person who is willing to keep the Word of God.
It is easy to be able to sit back and say, “I love Him,” but He tells us what it means to love Him. It is not about emotion. Again, when we think about the nature of love, it is a matter that we have to act upon what we love. When we think back to what the Baltimore Catechism says (anybody who is older than I am would remember), the reason for our existence is to know and to love and to serve God in this world so that we can be happy with Him forever in the next world. We cannot love what we do not know; but when we love, we have to act upon it. It is not enough just to sit back and think about how much you love someone; if you love someone, it has to be shown in action and therefore it is to serve. So if we are going to claim to love the Lord, we have to serve Him.
But He tells us that if we love Him we have to keep His word. So first we have to know Him, then we fall in love with Him, and then we serve Him. And when we are talking about Our Lord, it is not just enough to be able to love Him at a distance, but rather it is to be in love with Him because He wants us to love Him with our whole heart and soul and strength. That is the first and the greatest commandment. We have to understand properly the words that He is using and put them in the context of where He has spoken in other places to be able to understand what He means.
So if we are going to love Him, we have to keep His word. As we have spoken many times, every word that came out of His mouth is the Word of God. Therefore, it is not up for debate; it is not optional. It is absolute because it is spoken by the very mouth of God Himself. But it is not just simply a matter of saying, “This is what Jesus said, therefore it is what I should do,” but as we come to know Him and as we come to love Him, it will become evident that this is just simply the way that it is. We might start out by saying, “Yes, I have to do this because He said this is what I need to do,” but in time, as Saint Teresa of Avila says, when you get to a certain level of the prayer life you no longer believe because it is what the Church teaches, but rather you know that everything the Church teaches is the truth. That is because you have grown so close to God that you recognize that absolutely everything that is taught is absolute truth and there is no wavering in it. There is no discussion; there is no option. There is nothing except truth, and we become conformed to that truth. The truth is not something that is in our heads at that point; but because Truth is a Person, it is brought into the heart and we conform ourselves to the truth in love. And when we love, then we serve.
That is exactly what the Lord is looking at. The context of this reading is at the Last Supper, so it is right after He had washed the feet of His disciples. And He tells us that if we understood what He just did that we will do the same. So it is to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him. In return, the Most Holy Trinity will reveal themselves to us. They will come to us and they will dwell within us.
And so when they ask, “Why do You not reveal Yourself to the world?” it is because the world does not want God. But anyone in the world who does want God is no longer of the world because when the Holy Trinity dwells within you, your soul becomes heaven. It becomes the very dwelling place of God. Therefore, you have to live in the world but you are no longer of this world because your love is no longer of this world, but rather you love the One Who is of the other world and you serve the One Who is in heaven – not the one who is on earth because the earth and the world have been turned over to Satan. That is what it comes down to. While we have to be here, we do not have to immerse ourselves in all the nonsense of the world; but rather we are passing through this world and we have to bring into this world the love of God. We have to be that leaven. We have to be that light Jesus talks about. The only way we are going to be able to do that is not if we simply know about the truth and speak it, but rather when we love the truth and live it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.