Monday May 17, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:11-15) Gospel (St. John 15:26-16:4a)
In the readings today, we see two entirely different perspectives on things. We see Lydia, the woman from Thyatira, the dealer in purple goods (meaning a very wealthy lady), who listens to what Saint Paul has to say, and she believes. She says to him, “If you believe that my faith is true, then come and stay at my house.” Whatever it is that she did, she managed to prevail upon Luke and Paul and they stayed with her family for some time. Now this is because of her faith. Her faith led her to charity; and that charity, growing not only out of her generic belief but ultimately out of her prayer, is what led her to want to sacrifice of her own self for the sake of others.
On the other hand, you have Our Lord talking about what will happen in an entirely different perspective. It is interesting, the timelessness of Scripture and how things come full circle, because we have the Lord telling us, The day will come when people will put you to death and think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. Look at what goes on in the Middle East today. Look at what goes on with some of these unfortunate terrorist things that have happened. The biggest tragedy of all is the fact that these people think they are actually worshiping God. They rejoice and they give praise to their false god, Allah, when they kill people because they think they are doing something that is good. This is an amazing thing, but notice what Our Lord says: They do this because they have neither known the Father nor Me. That is the point.
We can look at these two things as extremes and then we can ask ourselves, “Where do we fall into this?” Are we practicing charity, are we living the faith that we profess? Now living the faith that we profess means not being mean to people, not being uncharitable, not being obnoxious, not thinking that we are serving God by sinning; but rather by practicing charity, by sacrificing ourselves rather than sacrificing someone else, by looking out for the good of others rather than looking out for the good of the self. That is what we need to look at within our own selves because in our society we have all been taught that Number One is all that matters (Number One, sadly, not being God but ourself). And we have been taught that it does not matter what we do to anybody else as long as we get what we want. So, oftentimes, the only time someone is treated charitably is really when they are not being treated charitably but rather when they are being used. That is, we will treat someone well in order to get something in return. That is not charity.
And so what we are looking at is really the question of where our faith is being put into practice, or if it is at all, because if we are like these unfortunate souls and think that we can do horrible things in the name of our faith then it is a false faith. They have neither known the Father nor Me, Jesus will say. We are going to stand before Him one day and we are going to say, “But look at what I did!” and He will say, “I have been.” Then He will say to us, “I tell you, I do not know who you are,” because He tells us the way people will know we are His disciples is by our charity, and if that charity is not evident then there is something seriously wrong within our own selves. The Lord has given to us not only the example of His own life and His own self-sacrifice and 2,000 years’ worth of saints who give us the same example, but we have the Holy Spirit Who has been poured forth into our hearts, we have Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament entering into us every single day, and we have Our Blessed Lady who intercedes for us. We are without excuse. If we are failing in charity, that can only mean one thing; that is, something is wrong with our prayer life because we have known neither the Father nor the Son, and I think we can add the Holy Spirit and the Mother of God and all of the others in heaven as well.
There is only way that one is going to get to heaven, and that is charity. All we are going to do in heaven is practice charity. That is what our judgment is going to be about – what we did in the body, the deeds that we have performed – Scripture makes that very clear. It is deeds of charity that the Lord is going to be looking for. Did we love God first and foremost with our whole heart and soul and strength? Did we love our neighbor as ourselves? If the answer to either of those is “no” then the charity is clearly lacking. We cannot be like these unfortunate souls who think they are serving God by making other people miserable. That is not giving glory to God and it is not loving one’s neighbor.
So that is what we all have to consider for ourselves. Living in this society, which knows not charity, we are called as Christian people, and especially as Catholic people, to practice charity, to practice love of God and love of neighbor. And we are without excuse because we are called to know the Lord because we receive Him and we call Him our Father. If we are going to be children of our heavenly Father, the Lord tells us, then we need to act as our heavenly Father acts. That is, He allows the sun to shine on the good and the bad; He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. His love is everlasting. That is the love we want to practice now, and it is the love we want to enter into for all eternity. There is only one way, as I mentioned, to enter into eternity – and that is by practicing charity in the present.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.