Monday April 11, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 6:8-15) Gospel (St. John 6:22-29)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord says to the people that they are not looking for Him because they saw signs, but rather they are looking for Him because they had their fill of bread. Now we, of course, would be tempted to say, “Well, what was the sign other than the fact that He had multiplied the loaves and the fishes, and they ate. It is precisely the fact that they saw the sign.” But they did not see the sign. They had their fill of bread, but they did not understand at all what it meant. That is the part He will now go on to explain, which we will hear over the next couple of days, and it is all about the Eucharist, that this is the reality of Jesus Christ. It is not just about a piece of bread and it is not just about having a full stomach. It has to do with having a full heart. That is why the Lord tells us that if we want to have eternal life we have to do the work of God. And the work of God, He says, is to believe in the One whom God has sent.
As we have looked at many times, to believe in the One whom God has sent is not this little generic belief: “Yeah, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” That doesn’t cut it. Nowhere in Scripture are you going to find that. It looks on the surface like it might be just that – “All you have to do is believe” – but if we read a little further on, we realize that that is not what it is all about. You have to believe, but if you believe then you have to act upon what it is that you believe. It is not enough just to say, “I believe.”
So if we are going to believe, what is it going to look like? It is exactly what we see in the first reading today. We see Saint Stephen, who was doing great works for God. He would debate certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, and when they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke, then they turned him over to the Sanhedrin. And even though they brought false accusations against him, Stephen was still at peace to the point that it says: His face was like that of an angel. This is what happens when someone is truly united with Jesus Christ, when someone truly believes. Stephen gave his entire life to the Lord and nothing was going to shake him. He did not have to try to stand up for himself because he knew what the truth was. It was not his opinion versus someone else’s opinion, but rather what he was speaking was truth – not opinion.
That is exactly what we have. It is not about opinion; it is about truth. There are lots and lots of opinions that are out there, but we are not interested in anybody’s opinion. What we have to be about is the truth. The truth is objective and the truth is there for anybody. As long as we conform ourselves to the truth, then we have nothing to fear. People do not like the truth; in fact, they hate it. And because they hate the truth, they are going to persecute those who try to live it. That does not mean we need to be afraid of them. They put Our Lord to death for the truth. They put Stephen to death for the truth. They put the apostles to death for the truth. Yet you might say, “But you’re telling us we don’t need to be afraid?!” That is right. If you are upholding the truth, and even if they went so far as to put you to death, then you go to heaven! What is there to be afraid of? That is what we are here for. That is what it is all about. If that happens, we should rejoice. That is what the saints tell us. It is what the Lord tells us. When they persecute you, He says in the Beatitudes, rejoice and be glad.
We need to make sure that we are looking at things the right way. Otherwise, we are not living the truth. It just becomes our own opinion then, and that is not what we want. It has to be the fullness of truth, not just parts of it, but the whole truth. And the whole truth is Jesus Christ. Again, if we are going to believe in Jesus Christ – and that is doing the work of God – it is to believe in the fullness of the Person of Christ and to live the truth that we believe so that everyone will be able to see and we will be at peace being in union with Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.