Wednesday May 4, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1) Gospel (St. John 16:12-15)
In the first reading today, we hear Saint Paul going into the Areopagus, and he begins to preach by pointing out that he recognizes that in all these various respects the people of Athens are religious. But their religion is off-track. It is this “Unknown God” that they are failing to worship. Well, we could say much the same about the people of America. They are very religious people. However, their religion, for the most part, is wrong. Imagine just going out and trying to tell them that: “Your neo-paganism just isn’t going to work.” They are not going to listen to a word you say because it is not going to be convincing. It is true what he said, but it is not going to convince very many people at all.
The only thing that is going to be convincing to anyone is the Cross, and that is what Saint Paul decided (after that particular incident in the Areopagus) he was going to preach, nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, only the Cross. That way, if somebody was going to convert it was not because of some kind of logical argument that may have been presented to them to be able to realize that their false gods are just that, that we cannot fashion God in our own image out of gold or silver or stone or wood or whatever little statues and idols might be made out of, but rather it is the other way around, that God has fashioned us in His own image and likeness. All of these things are true, but the problem is that if we are stuck in some kind of false religion reason does not make any sense. It has already been rejected, which is why we are accepting false religion.
The only way people are going to accept the logical nature of the truth is if they first accept Him Who is the truth. Then, following from that, they will accept the logic. There are very few people in the history of the world who have ever been converted because of logical argumentation. The conversion of the heart has to take place before the conversion of the mind. That is precisely what Saint Paul understood. He preached truth to them, but it did not make much difference.
So too with us. We have been telling people for how many years that abortion is wrong, that contraception is wrong, that all of the various things they are doing in this society are wrong, and how much difference has it made? We have to be about changing hearts, and the only way we are going to change hearts is if we bring to people the Person of Jesus Christ, if we bring to them the love of God. Love goes to the will, not to the mind; consequently, it changes hearts. When people recognize in the face of their sinfulness the love of God, it is then that they will convert. Then we can teach them what the truth is, but they have to begin in the heart.
Our Lord in the Gospel tells us that the Holy Spirit is going to be given to lead us into all truth. But the Spirit first fills our minds and our hearts, changing the heart so that the mind can then be changed. He tells us that the Holy Spirit is going to take from what is His (that is, what belongs to Jesus) and that He is going to give it to us. And Jesus goes on then to say, Everything that the Father has is Mine. So the Holy Spirit, Who is God, takes everything which is divine and He gives it to us. Once again, unless the heart is open to be able to receive it, the mind is simply going to reject it because we do not see it, and therefore we do not understand it, and therefore we do not believe it. There needs to be a conversion of heart before there can be a conversion of mind. That is why we need to pray for people, but it is also why all the fancy footwork that we can do with logical argumentation very rarely works. The only thing that is a sure bet is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. With Saint Paul, we need to determine that we will know nothing other than the Cross of Jesus Christ – and Our Lord Jesus Christ crucified on that Cross.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.