March 29, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday Within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 2:36-41) Gospel (St. John 20:11-18)
In the first reading today, Saint Peter, on the feast of Pentecost, stands up before all of these people and says to them, You need to know that God has made both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified. He looks right at them and says, “Look at what you have done. You have put the Lord to death.” Then they turn around and say, “What are we supposed to do?” And he tells them, “Simply be baptized in the Name of the Lord and your sins will be forgiven.” It is an interesting point that in order to be saved they had to be able to look upon the One Whom they had put to death. They had to recognize that it was they who had killed the Lord, and that in order to be saved they had to be baptized into His death so that they would also be able to be baptized into His Resurrection.
Well, this pattern has not changed. It was not we who were physically present, but spiritually speaking, because we are the ones who have sinned, it is we who have put Our Lord to death. He died for our sins, and the only way we are going to be saved is to be able to look upon the One Whom we have put to death and then to be baptized into Him, to enter into His death and Resurrection.
It is fascinating how God works, how He takes something that is the absolutely worst thing that humanity has ever done – and the worst thing humanity ever will do – and He turns it to make it the best thing that has ever happened to humanity. You see God’s love and how He brings so much good out of even the horrible things that we do, and how the only way we are going to be able to deal with what is on the inside of us is to look at it, to face it. When we see that the only way to salvation is to look upon Him Whom we have crucified, then we look at our own selves and we say, “How is it that we’ve crucified Him?” It is by our sins. So the only way we are going to be healed is if we look at our sins. Most of us like to push them away, bury them under something else and hide them so that we do not have to see them. There is no healing if we do not acknowledge them. The only way we can be healed of the effects of our sins is to look at them. If we have to look upon Christ, Who is the punishment for our sins in that sense, and that is the only way our sins can be forgiven is to look at the effect of our sin, then the only way we are going to be healed of the sins we have committed is to look at the sins that we committed, to look at the horrible things that we have done, or even those things that have been done to us, and bring them to the Lord.
We are ashamed of some of these things, and rightly so, but the Lord knows that we have done them. We cannot hide it from Him. Maybe we have brought it to Confession and the sin has been forgiven, praise God for that! But the effects of the sin still remain, and so we still need to deal with it. The sin is gone once it has been confessed, but if we still have the residual effects remaining then the only way to get rid of them is to address the problem, not to address the symptom, but to address the real ailment, which is the sin, to face what it is that we have done and to bring that to the Lord and to deal with it.
Just as the people 2,000 years ago were stung to the heart as they heard the fact that they had put God to death and Saint Peter told them that it is through His death that they would have life, so too, we are stung to the heart when we look at our own sinfulness, the very thing that has put the Lord to death. And Saint Peter will be right there to tell us that the only way we are going to have the fullness of life in Christ is if we face our sins; if, number one, we acknowledge them and confess them, and number two, if we deal with the effects of them. The only way we do that is by not burying them down as deep as we can, but by facing them, acknowledging them, dealing with them, and getting rid of them forever.
The only way to life is through death. And so in all of those works of death that we have been involved in, we need to work through them in order to find the fullness of life. That is the mystery. It is a resurrection of sorts within our own selves that we can go from death to life. Every time you walk out of the confessional, a resurrection has taken place, a new creation has taken place within your soul because you went from death to life, particularly of course if there was mortal sin. But because the effects of the sin still remain even after Confession, we need to address those so that the works of death have no more power in us, that in Christ we share in His life, in His Resurrection.
So if we are unable to see, just as Mary Magdalene was not able to recognize Our Lord, if we are not able to recognize Him fully at work in our lives, it is because we are still hanging onto the sins. That is why He told her, Don’t hang onto Me, Don’t touch Me, not because He was trying to be mean to her but because she was attached in an inappropriate way. If we are attached to our sins, then we are going to be blinded to the reality of Christ dwelling in us. If there is anything in the way, it needs to go; and the only way that it is going to go is if we look upon what we have done: to face the truth, to acknowledge it, to work through it, so that we will put to death the works of death and we will have within us the life of Christ in its fullness, leading us to the new resurrection.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.