Monday January 3, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Holy Name of Jesus
Reading (1 John 3:22-4:6) Gospel (St. Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25)
In the first reading from the First Letter of Saint John, we hear once again about the spirit of the antichrist. We are told that the spirit of the antichrist is that spirit which says that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. Any spirit, Saint John says, that acknowledges Christ come in the flesh is of God, and any spirit that does not is not of God.
Having just gone through Christmas, we look back and ask, “What happened in our society?” Jesus is removed from Christmas. We do not say “Merry Christmas” anymore; we have “Happy Holidays” instead. Everything is considered equal and it is just simply a holiday time where other things have replaced Christmas. You look and it says “Happy Xmas”; it does not say “Christmas” because they have literally taken Christ even out of the word “Christmas” and just put the letter “x” in front of it. So you see that this society has rejected Christ.
Now when Jesus came into the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the land of pagans as it was in the ancient world, we are told that they were a people who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death. Well, what is this country, but living in the shadow of death, killing our own babies, killing the elderly, killing those who are handicapped because they are a burden on society, because we do not want them, because of our own selfishness, or whatever it is. We want to get rid of anything that is difficult to us, and so we are the ones in this society who have rejected Jesus. The spirit of the antichrist is very much alive and well.
Of course, it is even within the Church. You go to Mass these days and you get entertained. Saint John tells us that what he speaks is the word of truth, and anyone who is of their number listens to the truth, while those who are of the world do not want the truth; therefore, they will not preach the truth and they do not want to listen to the truth. So we look around and we ask, “What do we have going on?” We have lots of places today that claim to talk about Jesus, but they do not want to preach the truth about Jesus. They preach part of the truth about the Lord, but not the whole truth because they do not like the truth about the Lord. Once again, we see that it is the spirit of the antichrist, because if we cannot accept the fullness of Jesus Christ then we are not accepting Him for Who He is. If we do not believe in the truth – and Jesus is the truth – then we have accepted the spirit of the antichrist. That is a huge problem right now because that means the spirit of the world has found its way into the Church, which is supposed to be animated by the Spirit of Christ.
We can look in many of the non-Catholic churches. You are going to see exactly where the problem lies. They rejected the fullness of the truth and they decided to go for part of it. And now you see the exact same thing happening in the Catholic Church, not the Church officially but people within the Church. That includes priests and bishops who refuse to teach the people the truth, who refuse to live the truth, who refuse to be good shepherds and call the people to holiness because it might be inconvenient and we are not going to get as much money in the collection basket. It is the spirit of the world, the spirit of the antichrist, the love of money instead of the love of Jesus Christ. That is what it is all about.
For each one of us individually, we need to look at this and ask ourselves, “Where have I bought into this? Where am I following the spirit of the world instead of the Spirit of Christ? Where am I giving into an antichrist spirit instead of the Spirit of Christ? Where have I allowed this disease to infect me, instead of rejecting it?” We can see how subtle it is. The devil is very shrewd and what he works on is our selfishness. Unless you have overcome sin completely in your life, there is still selfishness that is present; and if there is selfishness present, then there is still a great possibility that some of this kind of stuff could have filtered its way in. We need to be able to recognize it and work against it.
So that is the point we need to look at today because we think about this feast which the Church has put back into the calendar, and it is the first time once again that we are celebrating this feast in over thirty years, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Who is He? What is He about? Who is His Spirit and does His Spirit lead us, or are we led by the spirit of the world? There are only the two possibilities. If we are not led by the Spirit of Christ, we are led then by the spirit that is against Christ, or “antichrist”. That, of course, puts us into a schizophrenic existence – being members of Christ but not living according to the Spirit of Christ. And so as Christian people, as Saint John makes very clear, we have to listen to the truth, we have to live the truth, and even in the world which is so badly affected by what is evil, we need to bring Christ out into the world so that a people who dwell in darkness will see the light of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.