Wednesday December 1, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10a) Gospel (St. Matthew 15:29-37)
In the first reading today, we hear in the prophecy of Isaiah how the Lord on His holy mountain is going to provide for all peoples, He is going to feed them with the finest of food and the choicest of wines, and, most importantly, He is going to destroy death on that holy mountain. Now we certainly hear about how Our Lord goes up a mountain, feeds the people, and heals them, and so on. But, far more importantly for us, it is precisely on the mountain of the Lord (which is Mount Moriah, just outside of Jerusalem) where the Lord sacrificed Himself. It is in that sacrifice that He has destroyed death. It is in that sacrifice that He has given to us the choicest wine and the richest of food because He has given us the Eucharist. He has given us His own self to feed our souls and to provide life for all of us. It is precisely in this that death is destroyed.
For us, then, it is a matter of being able to say with Isaiah, Behold, our God to Whom we look to save us. It is the Lord, and the Lord alone, Who can do this for us. Sometimes what happens when we receive Communion is that very often we fail to see how much it is really doing for us. It is something we do every single day, consequently, we can walk away and say, But nothing happened. But that is completely wrong. What happens when we receive the Eucharist everyday is that it has the same profound effect that we just simply get accustomed to. It is precisely the Eucharist which is keeping us from all kinds of things; it is the Eucharist which is building us up; it is the Eucharist which is giving us life, not just natural life but supernatural life. It is doing a great deal within each one of us, and, most importantly, it is destroying death within us because with each occasion that we receive the Holy Eucharist, our hearts are going to be more on fire with love for God and they are going to have a greater longing to be united with Christ. If that is the case, then what happens is that the more we receive Holy Communion, the more we are going to desire heaven, and therefore the less we are going to be afraid of death.
For a person who is living their faith, there is nothing to fear with death. If this is the web that is woven and the veil that covers all peoples, it is completely destroyed in the heart of one who is united with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, because if we recognize the love of God in the Eucharist and the union that we have with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, then it stirs us to greater desire for the complete union that will be ours with Him in heaven. And so rather than running away from death and rather than being afraid of it, it becomes something that one longs for. Not in the sense that one would be suicidal or desire death in some kind of wrongful way, but rather seeing death as the door to life, seeing death as the threshold that one has to cross over to be able to obtain that full union with Christ. Therefore, there is no more fear, but rather the saints embrace death, not for its own sake but because they laugh at it, because they have no fear of it, because they know it is on the other side of that veil, it is on the other side of that threshold, that they are going to have what their heart desires, what they have prepared for so often when they have received the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is that which they desire more than anything else.
So as we come here day after day to receive our Blessed Lord and spend time with Him in prayer, very slowly and almost imperceptibly on a day-to-day basis, the Lord is changing our hearts. He is filling us with a greater desire for Himself, and in so doing He is not only feeding our souls but He is destroying within us the fear of death and therefore the power of Satan. Death and Satan have no power over anyone who is in the state of grace, and even less so over one who is receiving Our Lord and desiring that complete union with Him. And so even though it might seem that nothing is happening within us, great and profound things are happening every time we receive Holy Communion. We need not doubt but simply believe because in each one of us called to union with Jesus Christ, we are fed with the richest food and the choicest wine, and in our hearts death is destroyed forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.