Thursday November 18, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 5:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 19:41-44)
Our Lord in the Gospel reading today speaks to Jerusalem about the things that are going to happen to her, how her enemies are going to encircle her, set up ramparts against her and ultimately destroy her. The reason is because she completely failed to recognize the time of her visitation. Now it is easy for us to be able to sit back and say, “How obvious did it have to be? Jesus came to Jerusalem and they rejected Him. He was the Messiah for whom they were seeking, and when He came they did not accept Him.” Well, that is easy for us 2,000 years separated from the situation with all the things we have been taught since our infancy about Who Jesus is, but it would not be so easy in the context.
We need to be so careful regarding our own selves because the exact same thing can happen. All we have to do is look at the first reading to be able to see how difficult it is. We hear that the one who is found worthy to open the scroll and examine the contents is the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David. And so here is Saint John looking for this lion, and what walks in? A Lamb who had been slain. Not exactly what one would have been expecting, just like what happened to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. It was not quite what they were expecting when Jesus came. And I suspect, for all of us, we could very easily fall prey to the exact same thing. If we have our preconceived notions of the way that things are supposed to happen, they are not going to happen quite the way we think they are supposed to. When God intervenes, it is going to be different from what we expect and therefore we could very easily miss it.
We need to make sure we are keeping our focus solely on Him so that when things happen we are going to be able to accept. We see how in heaven, as well as in the spiritual life, everything is an irony. The lion is a lamb. God is a man. How does this happen? How does it work? It happens because God requires faith to be able to recognize the fulfillment of the prophecies that had been made, not in the way that in our humanness we would have expected them to be fulfilled, but in God’s perfect providence how He has chosen to fulfill them. Again, it reminds us how careful we must be not to put our own ideas onto what God is going to do, but rather to make sure we keep our focus on God in prayer like Simeon and Anna, who were waiting for the coming of the Lord – but were waiting in prayer. When He came into the temple they recognized Him immediately. The rest of the people of Jerusalem and of Israel were also waiting because they knew the time, and when He came they completely missed Him because they had predetermined that He was going to look different than what He did. Well, if we think He is supposed to look one way, like a lion, for instance, and He shows up looking like a lamb who was slain, we are not going to recognize Him unless we are accustomed to looking at Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Unless we are accustomed to listening to His voice as He speaks in the depths of our hearts, we are not going to recognize Him and we are going to miss the day of our visitation too.
It is just a reminder, once again, that there is only one way this is going to work, and that is if we are deeply rooted in prayer. It is the only way because then we recognize His voice; then we will recognize Him even if He seems to be in an unrecognizable form. It does not matter what form He comes in, as long as it is Him. But what does matter is that we will recognize Who He is. There is but one way to recognize that, and that is to be found in prayer, to be found doing exactly what He expects us to do when He arrives, that is, to be about the duties of our state in life and to be deeply rooted in prayer so that when He comes He will be immediately recognized. Like the twenty-four elders and all of the others in heaven, then we too will bow down before Him and we will worship Him because we recognize Him. If not, He will come in a form we did not expect and we will crucify Him again, or so we will try, because He did not look the way we thought He should. So we will reject Him and we will do exactly what the people 2,000 years ago did. That is why it is so critically important for us to pray. Whether it is for the day of our own death so that we are focused in the right direction, whether it is for the day of our visitation in a general way, it matters not; the same principle remains. Unless we are deeply rooted in prayer, we are going to miss the day of our visitation.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.