Recognizing the Time of our Visitation, 33rd Thursday (I), November 19, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for the Dead
November 19, 2015
1 Mc 2:15-29, Ps 50, Lk 19:41-44

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s Gospel we see Jesus weeping. It’s important for us as Christians to ponder these tears, because we’re not accustomed to see Jesus crying. As far as the evangelists record, he didn’t cry during the scourging. He didn’t cry carrying the Cross. He didn’t even cry during his crucifixion. And yet today he wept. What can we learn?
  • As he drew near Jerusalem, Jesus saw the city and wept over it. There’s a Church on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city called Dominus Flevit, “The Lord wept,” in which Christians ponder the tears of the Lord. When I was there a few years ago with a big pilgrimage group it was pouring outside, a meteorological event that allowed us to ponder the immensity of the Lord’s weeping. St. Luke tells us why Jesus was weeping. Jesus said, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” He was weeping because the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Holy City, didn’t know what makes for peace and because the city and its inhabitants would be destroyed — and all of this was happening because they didn’t recognize the time of their “visitation.” As those in religious communities well know, there’s a difference between a visit and a visitation. Anybody can pay a visit, but a visitation is something much longer. It’s a time of self-study. It’s a time of evaluation. It’s a time when the Visitator helps the whole community to take a good look at itself and where it’s going. God had not just visited but “visitated”  his people in the person of Jesus. He was the Prince of Peace who had come to establish the definitive peace treaty between God and man, to help people see where they were in terms of peace with God and with each other and change to how they ought to be, but the inhabitants of Jerusalem, representing the vast majority of Jews, hadn’t embraced Jesus and the path to divine peace he had come, as he said during the Last Supper, to leave us and give us. Had they embraced the life he was announcing, had they grasped the type of kingdom he was inaugurating, the political tensions that had led to Rome’s destroying Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jesus was prophesying by implication, likely wouldn’t have come about. And Jesus was weeping over all of these realities.
  • It’s important for us to grasp that Jesus was not weeping over ancient Rome, or Athens, or Sparta. He wasn’t weeping over modern day Las Vegas, or San Francisco, or Ferguson, or Baghdad. He wasn’t weeping over Paris or New York. He was weeping over Jerusalem, where the vast majority of people believed themselves to be religious, to be God-fearing, to be faithful. Jesus was weeping because they hadn’t recognized the time when God had come to visit them and shortly they would run him out of the holy city carrying a Cross. We need to ask ourselves whether Jesus would be weeping over Manhattan with all its Catholics, over the United States, over the world. Do we recognize the time of our visitation? It’s easy for us to point to many who are living lives clearly contrary to the ways of God who don’t recognize the continuation of Jesus’ incarnation in the sacraments and in the Church. But what about those of us who, like the ancient Jews in Jerusalem, think ourselves religious? Do we grasp what makes for peace and how the Lord has come to visit us? We prayed in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” and the reality is that many times the inner ears of our heart are closed to God’s voice calling us to conversion and holiness.
  • We need to enter into Jesus’ healing, salvific tears in two ways. We need to grasp that Jesus weeps copiously for us when we don’t really let him into our lives to bring us the fullness of peace he wishes to give us. But then we also need to enter into his tears and weep with him for all those who similarly do not open up their hearts to him, who refuse or reject his peace, his presence, his grace, his sacraments, his word, his brother or sister. Jesus said in the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn.” The path to heaven is a path of tears. This world is a journey “mourning and weeping through this valley of tears.” We Christians don’t ponder enough Jesus’ tears and don’t weep enough with him, not just for the hardened sinners far from the Lord, but also for those who believe themselves to be close to him but who out of stubbornness don’t allow Jesus to change them for the better because they don’t want to be disturbed. Today is a day in which we first confront the possibility that Jesus has been weeping for us because we yet haven’t fully responded to his call to become saints, because we have not yet really meant the words we’ve prayed thousands of times, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we weep because so many others haven’t prayed them at all or like us fully willed God’s kingdom and will to be done over theirs.
  • We see these lessons alluded to in today’s powerful first reading. Mattathias saw the way so many of his fellow Jews had capitulated out of human respect to their Greek occupiers and had even apostatized, sacrificing to the pagan gods. They didn’t grasp that God “visitates” each day. Mattathias’ response, having been “filled with zeal,” was not the approach Jesus, likewise filled with zeal, would take later. Mattathias slay his fellow Jew and the Greek messenger, whereas Jesus would weep for them, forgive them, and die for them. But Mattathias got what Jesus was hoping all the Jews would get, that there was a need to recognize that God was perpetually visiting them and they were called to conversion and holiness. And Jesus would want us to use Mattathias’ zeal to slay within ourselves is not worthy of the Lord and then to go out to help others to do the same.
  • Today Jesus comes to this convent named “Visitation” and he doesn’t want to weep but we pray rejoice! When we think of the word Visitation, named after the famous Biblical scene, we often think about Mary’s visiting her cousin Elizabeth, but the deepest meaning of that Visitation was that God was visiting the house of Zechariah in Ein Karim within Mary’s womb. Today the same God comes and visits not just this convent, but each one of us as we prepare to receive him. Let us ask him for the grace to recognize the time of our visitation, to grasp what leads to peace, and to structure our life and the world around us in the peace of Christ’s kingdom.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 MC 2:15-29

The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy
came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.
Many of Israel joined them,
but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.
Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias:
“You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city,
supported by sons and kin.
Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command,
as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah
and those who are left in Jerusalem have done.
Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends,
and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.”
But Mattathias answered in a loud voice:
“Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him,
so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers
and consents to the king’s orders,
yet I and my sons and my kin
will keep to the covenant of our fathers.
God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.
We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”As he finished saying these words,
a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all
to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein
according to the king’s order.
When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal;
his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused;
he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.
At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king
who was forcing them to sacrifice,
and he tore down the altar.
Thus he showed his zeal for the law,
just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu.Then Mattathias went through the city shouting,
“Let everyone who is zealous for the law
and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”
Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons,
leaving behind in the city all their possessions.
Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom
went out into the desert to settle there.

Responsorial Psalm PS 50:1B-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”