Reading (Revelation 5:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 19:41-44)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about the holy city, Jerusalem, and Jesus is weeping over the city, over the temple of the Lord, because the people did not recognize the time of their visitation. On the other hand, we see today two others: We see Our Blessed Lady and her presentation in the temple, and we recognize also the presentation of the Lamb of God in the temple of His heavenly Father, in the heavenly Jerusalem. We see why the people did not recognize the time of their visitation, because it is revealed that the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, is the One who has earned the ability to open the scroll with its seven seals. And so as John looks for this lion of the tribe of Judah, he sees a lamb, a lamb that had been slain. The people of Israel were looking for a lion and instead what happened is that they received a lamb who was in fact a lion. It goes back to Genesis 49 when Israel was blessing his children before he was about to die; his blessing went to his fourthborn son rather than the firstborn – it was to Judah. The blessing said, “You, Judah, like a lion’s whelp…” And so the Messiah came to be known as the lion of the tribe of Judah because of the blessing that was given. They knew the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and he would be like a lion. So what the people were looking for is what they were interpreting to be this lion, and what they found was a lamb. And when the lamb was presented in the temple to be sacrificed at the Passover, they did not recognize him as the lion; they did not recognize him as the fulfillment.
But there was one other who was presented in the temple who did recognize the Lamb, and that is the fair ewe who gave birth to the Lamb. In her presentation, she recognized fully well what it was that God was doing. And when the time for her visitation came, she said “yes”. She understood that what God was going to do was not what the people had expected; but rather, what God was going to do was completely contrary to what would normally be assumed. And so it was that a virgin received a child and gave birth. And so it was that a Lamb was a Lion, and He was the lion of the tribe of Judah. He was presented in the temple, and the people did not recognize Him.
For us, too, the time of our visitation has come upon us and God has made us a nation and kingdom of priests. The question is do we recognize our time of visitation, that each one of us – being baptized into Christ – is made into a kingdom and priests for God our Father. And so we are called to be a holy and royal priesthood, but do we recognize our call, our visitation, our presentation in the temple? Do we accept what God is asking of us?
Today, as we celebrate Our Lady’s presentation in the temple, she recognizes fully her lowliness and yet at the same time she recognizes the dignity that is offered to her and that she already possesses. When God asked her to be His mother, she did not say “no” because she did not think herself to be worthy of such a thing; she said “yes” because it was God’s Will. God has made clear that each one of us is called to be a king and a priest, that each one of us is called to this royal priesthood to serve our heavenly Father. And most of us, as we look at ourselves, we see our own unworthiness at such a thing and so we say, “No, it can’t be,” because we’re not worthy. Our Lady did not say that. She knew her lowliness, she knew her unworthiness, and she also understood the Will of God, that He asks for things that seem to make no sense, that seem ironic, that seem absolutely the opposite of what it ought to be. How can a virgin be a mother? How can a lion be a lamb? How can we sinners be a kingdom of priests for God our Father?
But God in His mercy has called each one of us and the day of our visitation is upon us. Each one of us needs to recognize our own call through our Baptism. It is not that today is the day of our visitation; the day of our Baptism was. But each day is. And each one of us needs to choose to accept God’s Will, to accept the dignity which is ours, and to be willing to say “yes” to the Lord. Even though it does not make sense, even though we are not worthy, it is because it is God’s Will. And so we are to be presented in the temple of God along with the Lamb. The choice is ours. Is the Lord going to rejoice over us or is He going to weep over us because we refused to recognize the day of visitation and we rejected His offer? Or are we going to accept His Will and say “yes” that in God’s Providence one more irony that does not seem to make sense will be fulfilled in each one of us. As lowly, unworthy, and miserable as we are, God has called us to greatness, to holiness, to be a kingdom and priests for God our Father.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.