Originally given on 21 July 2013.
F I AM NOT MISTAKEN there are two instances recorded in the Gospels where Jesus is said to have wept. The one occurred when He heard that His friend Lazarus died. The other is in the incident recorded today. We know that weeping or crying is a very human reaction usually to a sad situation. It generally indicates a condition of helplessness. This is especially true when we weep at losing someone through death.
Weeping over Jerusalem: Because of His divine knowledge, Jesus knew the future, and He knew how His own people were going to reject Him. He knew that eventually the justice of God would demand that this beautiful city be destroyed, including the magnificent temple which was once the glory of its existence. As we read elsewhere in the Bible, “Because it did not know the time of its visitation.” Yes, God is merciful, but there is a limit to His mercy. As St. Paul says, God will not be mocked. Because of the way He made us, God will not interfere with our free will.
Handwriting on the wall: Recently our Bishops have alerted us to pray for our religious freedom because our government is going to force us to do things that are against our conscience. But quite bluntly, why should the government get alarmed about requiring Catholics to do things that are against their consciences if the majority of Catholics are doing those things anyway? I’m told that Catholics aren’t that ‘lily-white’ when it comes to practicing birth-control, or being opposed to abortion or same sex marriage. A good percentage of Catholics will vote for politicians who are in favor of such things. Aren’t we supposed to be consistent in our ethics? We had an Old Franciscan who years ago used to say: “O consistency; thou art a virtue!” If a presidential candidate says he sees nothing wrong with same sex marriages, don’t be surprised if he promotes that if he is elected.
The Epistle: The incident related in the epistle may not be too clear to us, but it would have been familiar to the Jews. It referred to the incident in the Old Testament when they made the golden calf and worshipped around it, and also committed all kinds of other immorality around it. Because of this God slew quite a few of them. Back in Old Testament times God didn’t seem to be as patient as He seems to be today. Incidentally, this doesn’t mean that these people lost their souls. Possibly God knew this was the best means for them to save their souls.
A recent conference: This past week I was at a conference for priests on how to be better preachers. One of the presenters somewhat jokingly and yet seriously said, “We have to bring back the notion of a ‘mean’ Jesus”. Well, we certainly have that in today’s Gospel. I have often wondered what Jesus would do if He would come to some of our Churches today and see the behavior and dress of some of the people. I wish Jesus had come around with some whips when they were destroying or wrecknovating so many of the churches, tearing out beautiful altars and beautiful communion rails, just so the people could ‘see’ what was going on. I wonder how much holier this has made any of the people. Unfortunately the Cathedral in Nashville was ruined just so there could be an altar ‘facing the people.’
The phenomenon of ‘denial’: In psychology we learn there is a phenomenon of ‘denial.’ Briefly stated, this means a bad or undesirable situation that we know exists, but we keep saying it doesn’t exist. Ordinarily we can only do that so long; then we accept the fact and then go on from there, and do something about it. It seems to me for the last fifty years, we have been denying the fact of the sad state of affairs and conditions in the Church. Some people are still saying how glorious and wonderful things are. In the meanwhile Churches and schools are closing, religious orders are dying out, and fewer Catholics are practicing their religion. And still some are still saying how wonderful things are now, and incidentally how terrible things used to be.
I have reasons for hope. Yes it comes from priests like the 75 or so who attended that conference in Nashville, mostly young priests. I was by far the oldest. I’m surprised they even allowed me to attend! But as St. Paul says, “God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength.” It is through people like you; yes, you Latin Mass people especially that we shall overcome.
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.