Friday March 18, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Lent
Reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) Gospel (St. John 10:31-42)
We hear the statement at the end of the Gospel that many people began to believe in Him. The question has to do with what it is that they began to believe. Jesus made it very clear, and the Jewish people understood exactly what He said: He is God. Before Abraham was, I AM. That “I AM”, again, is Yahweh. They understood this perfectly well, and so they were going to stone Him.
Now the question is: who is Jesus? There are some who would like to try to water this down and suggest that Jesus was a prophet, He was a good man, He was a teacher. Well, we need to look at that. Jesus tells us that He is God. If He is a good man, a good man would not lie. If Jesus is not God, then He is a liar. And so we could not call him a good man if in fact He is lying to us about who He is. Now that would assume that He knew He was not God and that He just made this whole thing up. The other possibility is that He is insane. There are lots of insane people who think they are God. Or the other possibility is that He is Who He says He is. Those are the only three possibilities. He is either a liar, He is insane, or He is God.
If people began to believe in Him, it is ultimately to believe that He is indeed the Person that He says He is, that He is God, that He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of the living God. We cannot water it down simply to say that He is a good man or that He is a just man, because if that is all we are trying to do, we become a liar because a good and just man is not going to lie; and a good man and a just man is not going to be insane. So if Jesus is neither a liar nor insane, then we have to say that He is telling us the truth. He knows exactly Who He is, He is of sound mind, and He is speaking the truth. If that be the case, then He is God. And if we are going to believe in Him, then it is to believe in Him in His fullness, not to water it down in the least, but to accept the fullness of the truth. And the fullness of the truth is the very Person of Jesus Christ. So when He speaks the truth, He is simply speaking according to His nature. He cannot lie. God, Who is truth, cannot speak anything that is false.
So when Jesus spoke so that we would believe in Him, when He did the works of His Father so that we would believe in Him, when He is consecrated so that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him and now He is in us, and if He is in us and the Father is in Him, so too is the Father in us along with the Holy Spirit because they cannot be separated, again, we ask the question: who is He? If we want to believe that Jesus is in us, how is it possible unless He is God? We see the implications immediately then of any attempt to try to water things down, to rationalize this; it cannot work. We either have to be on one side of the fence or on the other. He is either God or He is not. If He is not, then there is absolutely no reason for anybody to put any faith in Him in any way, shape, or form, because if He is not God then He is either a liar or a lunatic. And if you are putting faith in someone who is a liar or a lunatic then you are responsible and you are at fault. But if He is God, then we have to do what He is telling us. If we are going to say, “I believe,” then the question is: why are we not living the fullness of what we profess to believe? Again, the implications come right back to us. We have to look at Him and ask the question that He asked the disciples: Who do people say that I am? And if we acknowledge the truth of Who He is – You are the Christ; You are the Son of the living God; You are the One Who is to come into this world; You are God; You are the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – then we need to change our lives. If we are going to sit back and say, “I believe He is God, BUT…” then we are in trouble because we condemn ourselves with our own words. We have acknowledged Him to be God, but we refuse to believe or to accept or to live the fullness of the truth. There are no but’s about it. If He is God, then live the faith. If He is not, then we should be a million miles away because if we are going to put faith in someone who is lying to us, or if we are going to put faith in someone who is insane, then we need to check our own sanity because it is pure foolishness on our part.
But if He is God, then serve Him as God. Do not try to walk both sides of the fence and do not try to water it down. Joshua, 3500 years ago, called the people to task and he said, Choose today whom you will serve – to serve the Lord, your God, or to serve the gods of the country into which you are crossing the Jordan to enter. You have to make a choice. As he said at that time, and each one of us needs to say, As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.