9th Sunday after Pentecost
The scene of today’s Gospel takes us back to Palm Sunday. As Our Lord and His disciples approach the city, they reach a promontory today known as the Dominus flevit, where Our Lord halts, takes in, across the valley, the spectacular sight of the prestigious city, and unexpectedly begins to weep. With His divine foresight, He contemplates the awful scenes that will take place there 40 years later when the Roman legions will besiege the city, starve it to death and then utterly destroy it, crushing it to the ground, killing over a million Jews and taking the remainder into an exile which will last to the end of time.
The destruction of Jerusalem was a turning point in history. It sealed the transfer of God’s promises from the Hebrew people to the Church of Jesus Christ, true heir of the promises of God to Abraham and the fathers. It was a divine chastisement of incalculable proportions, inflicted for the countless sins of the nation, and in particular for that gravest of all sins, the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. The people had handed Him over to be crucified by the Romans, crying out “His blood be upon us and upon our children”; forty years later, God hands over the same people to the same Romans. And the mighty arm of Rome would show no pity.
We might ask ourselves: how can this be? Is not God a loving God, a God of mercy and compassion, one that we can always turn to even when we sin? Yes, He is indeed, there is no limit to His mercy for those who turn to Him with humility and contrition. The problem is not on God’s side, but on the side of the sinner who does not want to convert, who does not want to see. Even though there were some Jews who converted to Christ, Jerusalem for the most part refused the light of God, obstinately blinded itself to the truth, and that left God only one course of action: chastisement.
Yes, God does chastise. The idea of a God who never punishes is as foreign to the content of Revelation as that of the very existence of God. It is present on nearly every page of the Bible, and denying it can only be attributed to a lack of faith or to bad faith. God does chastise, and even though most of His punishments are medicinal, they are not always so. The very existence of Hell and its everlasting punishment is divinely revealed evidence that there are punishments that are purely vindictive. Souls that reject God can only be rejected by Him, eternally. The repetition of sin can reach a level at which there is nothing more that God can do than punish. It has happened many times in history. A similar case to the destruction of Jerusalem was the sack of Rome in 1527. For eight long months, the mutinous troops of the Emperor Charles V killed, raped, pillaged, burnt the eternal city, leaving it a heap of ruins. This terrible event was a chastisement for the repeated sins of the Renaissance period.
These historical events are there to remind us that it is a bitter thing to abandon the Living God, to turn one’s back on His grace, the time of His visit. His visit. Yes, that is it. Our Lord Himself tells us the reason for Jerusalem’s punishment: Because you did not know the time of your visitation. You did not recognise the time that God was visiting you in His mercy, so you must now be visited by His chastisement. The word visitation is often used in Holy Scripture to designate a punishment. God is said to visit the enemies of Israel when He overcomes them. But there are also visits of grace, moments when God sends inspirations, either directly or through an intermediary. The great visit of God to the world was when He came Himself in the Person of His Son. That visit is actually ongoing through the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, present throughout history as the sign of God’s presence. The preaching of God’s word, the celebration of Holy Mass and the other sacraments, the presence of a priest or consecrated person, all are visits of God that call the soul to repentance.
If Our Lord wept over Jerusalem, seeing its coming chastisement, He weeps over other peoples of the earth who become obstinate in their rejection of the truth, especially when they shut their eyes and will not see. What might we say of our age, so deeply engrossed in the most despicable kinds of voluntary blindness, that it pretends not to see the abominable nature of its most horrendous actions! What tears must Our Lord shed today as He looks out over the world, and sees, not one city, but virtually the entire planet immersed in the crime of abortion with the blessing of political leaders, judges, intellectuals, and even – it is terrifying to say – a growing number of church leaders. What bitter tears He must shed for all those innocent children ripped from the mothers’ wombs and sacrificed on the abhorrent altar of lust and self-interest! What bitter desolation He must feel as He watches our world so founder in the cesspool of vice that our airwaves are submerged with the images of men, women and children forced to shamelessly exhibit their debauchery in order satisfy the lust-thirsty mob of profligate men, with the cheers of pornocrats enriching themselves and the complicit silence of political leaders all too happy to turn the other way! What rending anguish must not Our Sweet Saviour feel as He looks out over the west and sees the omnipresent vice of onanism in families, the abominable vice of sodomy celebrated as a god, the voluntary corruption of the youth who are told to choose their own sexual identity, the gagging and firing of professors who are bold enough to call out the delirious mentality of the decadent powers of the day! And the list goes on and on. Today, my dear Friends, Jesus weeps over this world gone astray, which as the Psalm tells us, does not want to understand, lest if have to change its ways (cf. Ps 35).
In the years that led up to the Second World War, during which the Nazi propaganda against the Jews intensified and would ultimately lead to the nameless crime of what has come to be grimly called the “final solution”, Edith Stein sadly announced, “One day this will have to be atoned for”. She herself would be part of that atonement, as she was sacrificed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on 9 August 1942. “One day this will have to be atoned for”. Yes, sadly, one day upon us, too, it will come. The blood of those millions of babies that has been poured out to the demon god Moloch, cries to Heaven for vengeance; it will have to be atoned for. And it will come upon this generation without mercy. Of this there can be no doubt. It is unavoidable. All that we can hope for is that some of us may be spared the worst, but even that is doubtful.
Our one consolation and hope is that for those who now join their tears to those of Our Lord, for those who now weep for their sins and the sins of other, for those who now mourn the murder of the innocents, the corruption of the youth, the lies and the wilful blindness, they can safely trust that after the trial they will be united with Christ in victory. For yes, in the end Christ will be victorious. The Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. But in the conflict many, many souls will be lost.
To give us courage, St Paul tells us in the Epistle that sin is never inevitable, for “God will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear”. There is always a way to avoid falling into sin. If we employ the means we have at our disposal, if we pray frequently, if we receive the sacraments worthily, if we do not put ourselves in occasions of sin, we will stand with the Lord and proclaim, as we shall do so shortly in the offertory verse: The justice of the Lord is right, it gives joy to the heart; His judgments are sweeter than honey, they give delight to the soul. And we will go forward with joy to the altar of God to receive the life-giving Body of the Saviour in Holy Communion and take part in His very life, as we shall sing in the Communion verse.
And so, my dear Friends, let us be attentive to the visits of God’s grace. Let us receive Him today into our hearts. Let us, while there is time, turn ourselves with humility and penance. Abraham prayed to God for Sodom, and he was able to bargain with God to save the depraved city if only ten good souls could be found. Alas, there were not ten. Let us beseech Almighty God to have mercy on us, and let us strive to be among the little flock that remains faithful, that is attentive to God’s visits, that does not let the grace of God pass in vain. Maybe, just maybe, if God finds ten good souls in Tasmania, maybe we will be spared.
Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.