Monday May 2, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 16:11-15) Gospel (St. John 15:26-16:4a)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that He has told us these things so that we may not fall away. This is quite a statement. He is telling us that He is going to give us the Holy Spirit, and He tells us also that the apostles are going to testify along with the Holy Spirit on behalf of Christ. And even with the Holy Spirit, He tells us that all of these things have been told so that we will not fall away. Again, we see just in our humanness how tenuous our faith really is, that when bad things happen – and there certainly are plenty of them – it makes one doubt, makes one wonder.
Our Lord tells His apostles that they are going to be thrown out of the synagogues and put to death. Now if we were to hear that that was what was going to happen to us, we would begin to wonder, “Is this really even what I want to do? Why would I want to do something that I know is going to end in my own death?” But the apostles, because of the Holy Spirit, were so completely convinced about the truth of what it was they were saying that suddenly these very timid and frightened men became very bold and they were willing to do whatever needed to be done – even to the point of death – to make sure that the Name of Jesus was spread to everyone, because out of charity for others they desired their salvation.
The Lord also, however, tells us something else that is important. When this happens, He said, people are going to think they are actually offering worship to God by putting you to death. Now we recall, of course, Our Lord’s own words from the Cross, when He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. So too, when these things happen to us, it is not always just the matter of the malice of other people but it is a matter that they really do not have a clue. They think that what they are doing is good; they think that what they are doing is right. The reason is because people like us are a pain to them. After all, we do not live in the same way as they do, we are not interested in the same sorts of things as they are, and, consequently, we are a censure to their conscience. They do not necessarily understand that that is what is happening, but what happens is because we are not living in the same kind of way that so many people are, they will look at us as the troublemakers. They will look at us as the ones who are causing a lack of peace because we are the ones who are different. “After all, if we just allow anarchy,” they seem to think, “everything will be fine.” Anybody with reason can recognize the foolishness of such an idea, except that they will look in the midst of their sin and think that we are the ones who are causing the problem. So they actually will think that what they are doing is a good thing.
Our attitude, when these sorts of things happen, has to be the same as Our Lord’s. We have to be willing to forgive. It does not mean it was okay; it does not mean they were right; it means that in their ignorance and in their sinfulness they really have no clue of what it is they are actually doing. That is something that is extremely difficult. You can understand, then, why Our Lord says that He told us this so that we would not fall away. How easy it is when things are so horrendous, when they are so unjust, to wonder, “Where is God? Why isn’t He intervening? Why has He abandoned me?” We begin to wonder if God even exists. Even with all of the things that have been revealed and all of the things that have happened in our lives, it is still easy for us in our human weakness to fall away. That is why Our Lord has told us these things, so that when they happen we will remember them, that is, we will remember His words; and in so doing, the grace will be there to be able to call upon His Name and remain faithful even to the end.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.