Wednesday November 30, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Romans 10:9-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 4:18-22)
Saint Paul in the first reading says, If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Now we have to ask the question of exactly what that means because one could take that to mean that all you have to do is believe that Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior and you are going straight to heaven. That is not quite what it means because that would be contrary to what Jesus Himself tells us in the Gospels. Therefore, what exactly does it mean? Well, to “believe in your heart” means to accept the fullness of truth, and it means to change your life to live according to the way of Christ. To “confess with your mouth” is not just simply to say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus,” but it is, once again, to believe in the fullness of Christ.
This is why Saint Paul, then, would go on to talk about those who are called to preach. How can someone believe unless they have heard? he says. There has to be someone who is going to bring the Good News to others. Now this is something that is for all of us to do, to bring the Gospel out into the world by the way we live and by the way we speak. In everything we do, we are to present the Gospel of Christ. We can ask ourselves, as we look at our own day-to-day lives: Are my words in union with the Gospel? Is my life also the life of Christ? Do I reflect Christ in the way I live and in the way I speak? If not, then we are not truly confessing with our lips and we are not truly believing in our hearts because we have not changed our lives to be able to reflect what it is that we are claiming to believe.
If our faith is just sort of a passing reality, something that really is not all that big of a deal to us, it is there but it is not all that important, then these words do not fully apply to us. If Jesus Christ is the center of our lives, then our lives need to reflect that that is the truth. And that is something every single person will see. People are not blind; they will very quickly pick up the question of whether we are a hypocrite or whether we are going to be faithful to what it is that we profess. If we are going to go out into the world and talk about Jesus but then we are going to live a sinful life, then we are going to be condemned by our own actions because all we have done is proven that our words are not true.
The power of the Gospel is found in the way we live our lives. We have to speak the truth, even if we are not living it fully. We are all weak; we all fall. If we waited until we were perfect before we tried to go out and preach the Gospel, most of us would never preach it even once. So it is not a matter of going out and trying to tell people that we are perfect–we are sinners and we are forgiven–but it is a matter of making sure that we are trying to make our lives correspond with what it is we are professing. That is what this world needs to see. What we need more than anything in this world today are people who are truly living according to the Gospel.
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John, they left everything behind and they followed Him. They changed their lives. They were willing to leave whatever was part of their lives before and to follow in the way of Christ. That is what we have to be willing to do, as well. It is not enough just to say, “Oh, I believe.” We need to live what we believe. We need to put into practice what we profess so that the way we live our lives and the words we speak are going to reflect the truth we believe, and that truth is the Gospel of Christ, and the truth is Christ Himself. That is why our lives have to be an extension of the life of Christ, because if we are going to say that we believe in Him it is not just from a distance; we are incorporated into Him, and He wants to live in us and through us. But that requires our free will. So if we are going to believe in our hearts and confess on our lips that Jesus is Lord, then that is the reality that needs to be lived in our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.