Monday December 5, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 35:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 5:17-26)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear about this radical change that is going to happen in various elements of creation. The desert, we are told, and the parched land will exult, the steppe will rejoice and bloom...the glory of Lebanon will be given to them, and so on. We see this complete transformation: going from a desert into a garden land; going from the hot, burning sands to pools of water; from the place where the jackals abide to a place where there is going to be a holy way. We see what God wants to do, not only within nature, but within us. He wants to turn us completely around because He tells us that there is going to be this road, this holy way, and the ones who are to walk on it are the ones who have a journey to make–and that is us. We are on a journey to eternity.
But we are told that the only ones who will be able to walk on it are the Lord’s redeemed, which means that we have to make sure we are living according to who we truly are, that is, according to redeemed humanity. We need to make sure we are accepting our dignity that Christ Himself has given us. We know that we are already made in the image and likeness of God, but we also know that we are fallen in sin. But we are redeemed in Christ, and that is the part most of us constantly forget. The thing that should be at the foremost of our thoughts, especially with regard to who we are, is the part the devil has convinced us somehow is either not real or else it is just simply forgotten. But we are redeemed in Christ. We are a new creation; therefore, we have to live as a new creation, to walk upon this road with joy and gladness, as we are told, to be able to recognize that what the Lord wants for us is this fullness of life.
And so if we look at the Gospel reading today, after Our Lord forgives the sin of this man and he is able to get up and walk, then we recognize precisely where the problem lies. The problem is in sin. We are redeemed and the Blood of Christ forgives our sins, yet if we like sin more than we like redemption, then we are not going to walk on the road. We are not going to go anywhere. We might be standing on the road. As long as we are in the state of grace, thanks be to God, we are on that road, but are we moving? It is for those with a journey to make, not for those who want to stand in one place and not move. We are called to grow in holiness. We are called to grow in virtue, to die to sin and live for Christ. So it is not just a matter of seeking the minimum, but rather it is seeking to glorify God most perfectly by growth in holiness.
When we are cooperating with God’s grace, when our sins are forgiven, and, in fact, as we strive to overcome sin in our lives, then like the people in the time of Jesus, all we will have to do is look into our own hearts and we too will be able to say, We have seen incredible things this day. The most incredible thing of all is that we ourselves are going to be transformed; that we are going to go from that desert, from that parched land, to blooming with flowers, flowers of grace and love; that we are going to go from the abode of jackals–because that is what we are when we are in the state of sin, we are the place where Satan can just have a heyday–we are going to go from that to a place that is fertile and green and providing new growth for the Lord. That is the transformation God wants us to make, not just to be minimally in the state of grace–that is critically important–but to continue to move forward, to continue to grow, to continue upon this road because it is for those with a journey to make. It is for those who want to become more Christlike, who want to be completely transformed from one degree of glory to the next into the very image of Jesus Christ. Those are the words of Saint Paul and those are the things that are to apply to each one of us.
These are the astounding things that can happen in each one of us. We can become saints, and that is what Jesus wants for us. We cannot do it by ourselves; He will do it in us, but we have to cooperate. So when He looks at us and tells us that our sins are forgiven, then He says, Get up and walk. He did not say, “Get up and stand.” He said, Get up and walk. Get on the road, take the journey, move forward in the spiritual life, and become transformed into Christ. And as Jesus works these miracles in you, then you can say of yourself: “I have seen incredible things this day.”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.