Thursday May 20, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 18:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:16-20)
· The Ascension has been transferred to Sunday in this diocese.
These words that we hear in the Gospel, of Our Lord telling His disciples that in a little while they will no longer see Him and again in a little while they will see Him, can be taken in a couple of different ways. Obviously, the context in which He intends it here is that He is going to be crucified and buried (when they will no longer see Him), and then He will rise from the dead and they will see Him again. For us, at the same time, we can look at it and say, “He is now in heaven. He has ascended to the right hand of the Father and we do not see Him; and yet He is coming again. He will take us to be with Him where He is and we will see Him.” Or, for those who are alive on the face of the earth when He returns, they again will see Him.
In the meantime, He tells us that the world is going to rejoice while His disciples grieve. What has happened is exactly that. The world rejoices because they have rejected God, and so this is their time for revelry. Just like in the camp when Moses was up on Mount Sinai and he heard the sound of revelry in the camp, he came down to see them worshiping a golden calf and getting into all kinds of unfortunate activities as they fell into pagan worship and all that went along with it. That is exactly what the world is doing. The world has rejected its God and has chosen false gods for itself. And with great abandon it has been practicing revelry, false worship, and all the unfortunate practices that go along with it.
In the meantime, anyone who wants to be a true Christian person has, on one hand, been grieving, not because the Lord is not present – because He is – but grieving because the souls of so many are being lost. As Our Lady told us at Fatima: Souls are falling into hell like snowflakes because they have no one to pray for them. That is where the grief comes from. Imagine the grief that Saint Paul felt, for instance, when he went into the synagogue at Corinth, preached Sabbath after Sabbath, and the people rejected the message that he was preaching. So he turned to the Gentiles and they accepted it. But his heart must have been heavy because his own people, the people for whom Our Lord came, had rejected Him. We recall those words from Saint John’s Gospel: He came to His own and His own accepted Him not. He came as the light in the darkness, but men chose darkness rather than the light. None of that has changed. The difference now is that with paganism very much on the rise in the world, and Christian people falling from their faith, one has to wonder: Are we falling into that same pattern? The very people who have accepted Our Lord, those for whom He offered His death, have rejected Him. He came as the light in the darkness, but we have chosen darkness over the light. And what grief this must bring to those who truly believe. Parents whose children have fallen from the Faith know this grief very well. Having taught their children the Faith and having passed everything on to them, their children have turned their backs on Christ and walked away. They understand that grief of someone who has rejected the Lord. We understand it very well as we see all these people leaving the Church.
Yet, at the same time, the Lord tells us that our grief will be turned to joy. There is joy in people who are coming into the Church. There is joy when the children return. There is joy in knowing that Our Lord is here with us. But, of course, the fullness of joy will be when we behold Him face-to-face, when we are with Him in heaven, when we are able to be united forever. That is going to be where the joy is complete. That is when we will see that everything that has happened is part of His Providence, that He has allowed it for whatever wise reason which right now we do not understand and which right now causes us a great deal of grief; but the day will come when that grief will be turned into joy. And it is a joy that no one will be able to take from us, Our Lord tells us. That is the promise He makes.
So we need to pray that people will open their minds to the truth, that they will turn to the light and reject the darkness, that they will accept the One Who came into this world to die for them, that they too will be able to save their souls from hell so they too will be able to go to heaven. We must work at turning our own grief into joy. The way that can be done, even in the immediate, is to pray for souls, to bring them from the grip of the devil and restore them to unity with Jesus Christ. In that, even in this world we will have joy. When we are in union with Jesus in prayer and in action, and when through our prayer and sacrifices we bring others to the Lord, then just as there is in heaven so can there be on earth: There will be more rejoicing over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine people who have no need to repent.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.