Wednesday March 16, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Lent
Reading (Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95) Gospel (St. John 8:31-42)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us that if we remain in His Word then we will truly be His disciples. Again, we have lots of people who want to say that they are followers of Christ, but they really want to do what they want to do and not what Our Lord has told us to do. He told us that if we remain in His Word then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. This is where the problem comes in for most of us. As we have talked about so many times, the fear that we have is the fear of changing, it is the fear of letting go of things, it is the fear of the detachment. We are afraid that if we detach from these various things that the joy we get is going to be taken away or the pleasure is going to be removed or whatever it might be, and so we do not do God’s Will. Our Lord makes very clear that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. If we want the true freedom of the children of God, there is only one way to get it and that is to get rid of sin, to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
If we look at the first reading, we hear what Nebuchadnezzar has to say when he sees the three young men in the furnace unhurt. He says, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and then goes on to say that they were willing to sacrifice their bodies rather than to worship any other god except their own – because there is only one. Now if we have things that we are unwilling to give up, they are ultimately little idols in our lives. And so we need to look at it and say, “How many gods am I willing to worship? There is only one, but if I have set up all kinds of little false gods then I am giving honor to something that is not God. Therefore, I have become a slave to something else; whereas if I worship and honor only the one God, then I will have true freedom if I am doing God’s Will.” As Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Hebrews, that in our fight against sin we have not yet come to the point of shedding blood, we see that same basic point in the first reading, that these young men were willing to die rather than violate the commandment to worship God. That is the way we have to be as well. How much does it really mean to us to get rid of sin? How much does it mean to us (to put it the other way) to have true freedom? to know the truth and to have the truth set us free so that we will be true disciples of Christ, so that we will be true members of the household? That is what Jesus is telling us.
Only if the Son sets us free will we be members of the household. If we choose sin, we become a slave, and a slave is not a member of the household in a permanent sense. We want to be permanently part of this household. The alternative is to be permanently apart from the household of God, and that means to go to hell. That is not what any of us wants. So if that is the case, we need to get rid of sin and we need to do whatever it is going to require, to sacrifice our bodies rather than worship anything other than the one God, to be willing to suffer rather than to sin. Whatever it is going to require, we need to make sure that we are willing, as the saints would say, even to do violence to ourselves, meaning that we know how severe the temptations can be at times and we have to be willing to say “no” and to suffer the immediate consequences for the long term gain. If we are convinced of Who Jesus is and the freedom that He offers us, then we have to be willing, as He tells us, to remain in His Word. If we are going to remain in His Word, it means to be obedient to Him, to do what He has commanded us to do. That means to get rid of sin and to serve Him alone.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.