Tuesday December 14, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Saint John of the Cross
Reading I (Isaiah 43:1-5) Reading II (Romans 8:14-18, 28-30)
Gospel (St. John 17:11, 17-26)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord prays for His disciples, for all of those who would believe through the words of the apostles; of course, He was praying for the apostles themselves as well. He prays that all would be one, that they would be one in Him; and He prays in a wonderful way that we would be with Him so that we would be able to see His glory, the glory that God had given Him from before the world began. Well, if this is the case, then we need to share in the fullness of His glory, not only the fullness of His glory in heaven, but the fullness of His glory on earth as well, because if we are going to be one with Christ, it means we have to be one with Him, not only in heaven, but on His Cross and in His suffering.
Saint Paul talks about that in the second reading, that is, we share in His suffering so that we can share in His glory. He tells us that the glory to be revealed in us is so much greater than what the sufferings are that it makes the sufferings of the present seem as nothing compared to the glory which will be revealed in us on the day we enter into heaven. But even before we enter into heaven, this glory can be ours through growth in holiness, through uniting ourselves perfectly with Jesus Christ to be truly one with Him in all things so that we are transformed into perfect images of Christ, into the image of His Son, as Saint Paul talked about once again. If we are going to call God our Father and if we are going to be members of Christ, it is not just to be a member of Christ but not really a practicing member, just as we can sign up for lots of different groups and clubs and so on that we can all have a membership card in but we never show up for any of the meetings. If we are going to be a member of Christ, it means to be fully a member, living the life, being united with Christ in all things, not merely being incorporated and then never having anything to do with it, but to immerse ourselves in Christ and to be one with Him.
So if we are going to do that, it means to live the life of Jesus Christ, it means we have to set our faces as He did toward Calvary; we have to climb the mountain of Calvary with the cross on our shoulders to be crucified with Him so that we too will be glorified with Him. That is precisely what we hear about in the first reading when we are told that we are not to be afraid because we have been redeemed. The Lord says, Should you pass through the sea, I will be with you; or through rivers, you will not be swallowed up. Should you walk through fire, you shall not be scorched; the flames will not burn you. For I am the Lord, your God. Well, that does not necessarily mean physically going through the rivers and the sea, and especially the fires, but spiritually we are going to be crushed, we are going to go through the fires that are going to purify us so we truly will be one with Christ, so when we call God our Father it is Christ who is calling Him our Father within us.
These are the things that have to happen as we are purified. But what happens is the very things that purify us are also the things that are going to give God the greatest glory and will glorify us, because, once again, we hear about the waters and the fires and so on. The waters, of course, are the Holy Spirit, sanctifying grace; the fire is the Holy Spirit. One of Saint John of the Cross’ books is called The Living Flame of Love, and that is what happens in the soul from the point that you reach perfection until you die. We look at it and think, “How can one grow once one has reached perfection?” You just continue to grow in love. The flame of God’s love is within, and so the flame of love which might burn at this point (that is, which might hurt as it purifies) is the flame that is going to be perfect, that is going to burn within us but will no longer burn us; rather, it will simply burn within.
The flame of love, that is what we are called to, that is what that oneness is with Christ, that we are united with Him in love and we are going to share His sufferings in this life so that we will share the fullness of His glory in the next. But even in that, remember that sharing in His suffering is to share in His glory because it was on the Cross that He was perfectly glorified in this world. So if we are called and we are chosen – and each one of us has been – then it is a call to share in the suffering and the glory so that we share in the fullness of the life and the person of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.