March 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 42:1-7) Gospel (St. John 12:1-11)
In the first reading today, Our Lord says through the prophet Isaiah, regarding the Messiah who would come, that he would not be crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the streets. We hear about his gentleness, that he will not crush the bruised reed or put out the smoldering wick. And so he lives something of a hidden life, and yet at the same time he is to open the eyes of the blind, he is to call out the prisoners to freedom and those in the dungeons to come forth. There are going to be extraordinary signs and miracles, and yet at the same time he is going to live in a hidden way.
When we look at Our Lord, He preached in the temple day after day, but He did not go out looking for all kinds of attention for Himself. He went into small towns, He preached the Gospel, and then He moved on to other small towns. While He was there He healed the sick, and even though they wanted Him to stay in place after place, He would not because it was not the purpose for which He had come. So you see that He was not seeking anything for Himself. He had a mission, and that was to bring the Gospel into the world and ultimately to bring salvation to humanity.
Now the important thing of recognizing this is the fact that He has not changed. He was crucified and He is risen, and yet He is still very gentle for those who come to Him in confession, for those who truly repent of their sins. In our brokenness, He is not going to crush us. When we come to Him, not with the flame of faith burning brightly but barely smoldering sometimes, He does not put it out; but rather He very gently fans things back into a full flame. He helps us to get back into the fullness of our spiritual health. While we can look at His Resurrection and recognize the most extraordinary event in human history, even still He keeps it hidden. He still requires an act of faith on the part of those who are going to come to Him. He still is quiet and somewhat distant and hidden. He reveals Himself to those who love Him, to those who draw near.
It is like the people in the Gospel who heard that Jesus was at the home of Martha and Mary, and they came to see Him. There He was, not drawing attention to Himself, continuing to live quietly, but the people wanted to see Him. And every place that He went, the people came to Him. He did not even have to go out looking – He was sought after. Even though He still gives the grace, just as He would go from town to town and speak to the people, the grace was only given to those who would come to Him. He still calls each one of us, but He gives the grace to be able to draw near and we have to make that decision. We have to be the ones to determine whether we are going to allow ourselves to come to Him, to unite ourselves with Him. He is there and He is waiting, but He does so very quietly and very passively because He is not going to force us, He is not going to break us, He is not going to crush us; but rather, He is going to allow us to make the choice of whether or not we will get upon the Cross with Him. He is going to give us the choice whether we are willing to die with Him. He is going to stand there on the Cross and He is going to invite everyone to Himself, as He promised He would do, but He will wait for us. The grace is there if we are willing to accept it, but we have to make that choice. He is working the most extraordinary miracles in the souls of those who believe, but He does it in a hidden way so that only those who believe will recognize it and they will be able to grow in deeper love and in a greater union with Our Lord.
So in this most holy of weeks, we need to make that choice. Are we going to stand at a distance and watch? Or are we going to draw near and unite ourselves with Him? He is there – not crying out, not shouting, not making His voice heard – He is there in all of His gentleness. And He is leaving an invitation open to us, an invitation to unite ourselves with Him, an invitation to enter into His Heart, an invitation to be one with Him in His Passion. The choice is ours. The invitation is there and the grace is there. Are we going to stay at a distance or are we going to draw near? We have to come to Him if we want salvation. We have to come to Him if we want the redemption of our souls. That is what is being offered to us. In this holy week, let us all make that decision to unite ourselves with Him in His Passion and in His death, so that we will be perfectly united with Him in His Resurrection.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.