Thursday November 17, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Maccabees 2:15-29) Gospel (St. Luke 19:41-44)
In the first reading today, we hear about the religious persecution of the Jewish people. As we have been hearing from the Book of Maccabees over the last couple of days, we have to keep in mind this is really the first time that the Jews had been persecuted for their faith. They had been sent into exile previously, they had enemies that had tried to destroy them–not because of their religion, but simply because of the fact that it was a political thing– but now they were being persecuted for their faith. This was merely within about a hundred and fifty years of Our Lord coming into this world. Now they had to stand up and decide whether they were going to be Jews, or whether they were going to give in to what the Gentiles believed. And so today we hear about Mattathias springing up and killing the man who was willing to offer false sacrifice on the altar, and killing the man who was in charge of trying to force the Jews to offer sacrifice of pigs (that is usually what they would ask them to offer).
Then we also look at what Our Lord says as He looks at Jerusalem–Jerusalem, remember, means the city of peace; it is the place of peace–and He says, If only you knew this day what made for peace. The only thing that is for peace, the only way to be able to achieve peace is Jesus Himself. That is what we have to learn and what we have to understand because we know that persecution of the Faith is in fact underway, but it is only going to get worse and we need to be able to remain at peace. It is not necessary for us to spring up and kill people who want to oppose our faith; that is not what we have to do. What we have to do is to remain at peace, to know what the truth is and not give in to falsehood, but in all things to always remain at peace. As I have mentioned many times, there is only one way, and that is if we are deeply rooted in Christ in the depths of prayer because He is the means to peace.
Our Lord tells us that because the people of Jerusalem failed to recognize the time of their visitation they would be surrounded by their enemies and they would be destroyed. That is exactly what happened. In the year 70 A.D., the Romans attacked the city. They had been surrounding it from 66 until 70, and finally in 70 A.D. they attacked the city of Jerusalem during one of the high holy days. The city was full of pilgrims and people who had come to worship God, and they killed every last one of them and destroyed the city and burned it because they refused to recognize the time of their visitation. What about us? It is not a physical city that we have to be concerned about; it is our souls. And if we fail to recognize the time of our visitation, in other words, if we refuse to recognize that Jesus Christ is God and act upon that we will be destroyed.
We all acknowledge it in our minds, I don’t think there is anyone here who would suggest that Jesus is not God, but why then do we not act upon it? He is right here, yet we do not spend much time with Him. He is God, and we seem to want to spend as little time with God in prayer as we possibly can. It makes no sense. We come for Mass because that is the only place that Mass is going on, but then we have the Blessed Sacrament and we pay no attention. We do not take the time often to even prepare ourselves for Mass. We do not take the time to make a thanksgiving after Mass. We do not pray to Him in the Blessed Sacrament. We really have to ask ourselves, then, have we recognized the time of our visitation? Have we recognized the True Presence of Jesus in our midst? If we are not spending time with Him, if we are not coming to Him to pray–and He is God right here in our midst–then we have to ask, “What’s wrong with me? Why do I not recognize Him here? I acknowledge Him in my head, but obviously my heart is somewhere else.” Then if we are going to be honest with ourselves in our failure to recognize Him, we will also have to admit that we are not at peace, because there is only one place we are going to find peace and there is only one way we are going to find peace, and that is united with Jesus in the depths of prayer.
So as things continue forward, we are without excuse. We are going to have to stand before the Lord one day, and He is going to point out to us that He gave us everything. We had the opportunity to know Him and to love Him. He is right here and has never abandoned us. He is here to provide peace in the depths of our being. And the day of our visitation has been from the first day of our lives up until now. Have we recognized it? Or is it something that we have just simply taken for granted that we tend to ignore it? We will be responsible for our failure to come before the Lord to pray, to unite ourselves with Him. Or we will be rewarded on the other side because we did do what we should have done. We need to look very seriously at that.
In this society which knows no peace, there is only one group of people who will be at peace, and those are Christian people who are united with Christ in prayer. Otherwise, we can look around and say, “Our enemies do surround us on every side, and they are going to try to destroy us.” If we are not united with God, destroyed we will be; we will give in because human weakness is not going to be able to withstand Satan’s attack. But if we are united with God, deeply united with God in love and in prayer, we will be able to stand firm and we will be able to remain at peace because the only source of peace will be in the depths of our souls, and that is a peace and a joy that no one can take from us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.