HOMILY WEEK 33 04 – Year II
Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
(Rev 5:1-10; Ps 149; Lk 19:41-44)
Paula D’Arcy, spiritual writer and speaker, once said, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”
The readings today build on that statement: can we recognize Jesus when he comes to us, and appreciate fully the great gift of salvation he has so freely given us?
One of the sites our pilgrimage group visited in the Jerusalem was Dominus Flevit, overlooking the city not far from the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Jesus wept over Jerusalem for “not recognizing on this day the things that make for peace.” Basically, Jesus laments they did not recognize him, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the one who would be both Lamb of God and Kyrios or Risen Lord.
We see here the true nature of love which never dominates, forces itself or overwhelms. True love can only attract, allure, invite, and God is love. There is a reality here similar to a slogan of AA: “Attraction, not promotion.” Jesus, by his birth, life among us, passion, death and resurrection came to draw us back to our God, who is love and only love.
One can only imagine what this world would be like now if the people of his day had recognized their “day of visitation,” believed in him, followed him and did his will, which was to love God, others, ourselves, love others as he loved us, and even love our enemies, as well as live out the Beatitudes.
The resistance of the people and their religious leaders, enmeshed as they were in the pursuit of the secondary goods of possession, prestige, power, pleasure, morphed into idolizing these false gods, obscured their vision and befogged their thinking. The result was what Jesus foretold – the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE by the Romans. Add to that countless centuries of futile wars, conflicts and violence generating multitudes of desperate refugees and people displaced from their homes, and we have the confused, polarized, angry world we are experiencing today.
But there is hope – the powerlessness of love transformed into the greatest power of all, fills the pages of the Book of Revelation, from which today’s first reading is taken. Like water, the gentlest of God’s creation that over time can wear down the hardest rock, God’s love in the end will overcome all resistance, false pride, sin, suffering and death itself.
John laments there seems to be no one in all of creation who can open the scroll sealed with seven seals. That scroll represents all the wisdom of the Word of God in the scriptures. Suddenly, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb of God, the one who conquered sin, suffering and death itself, is presented, and a new song of joy and glory is sung in the heavens.
This passage conveys an important message for us, the church and indeed all of humanity. It is only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who can break open the scroll sealed with seven seals. It is Jesus who is the interpretive key to understanding all the words of the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament.
This reality can help us make sense of all the violence and mayhem in the much of the Old Testament. All of salvation history, both written and oral tradition, is a majestic, calm, progressive, slow revelation of the true nature of God, marching across the ages. Whereas even today many have views of a rigid, punishing and violent God, and much violence is still done in the name of religion, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus finally and for all reveals who our God truly is. We can now recognize God, and respond accordingly.
It is no accident that the moment Jesus died on the cross, the heavy curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. That curtain was there to keep people out of the Holy of Holies, into which only the high priest could go. Now, there is no separation between us and God. With the death of Jesus on the cross, and the way he suffered and died, without bitterness or resentment, we can see right into the heart of God. What we see is humility, mercy, compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness and above all, total non-violence. Yes, our God is totally non-violent.
Not only does this passage from Revelations reveal to us the deeper meaning of the Old Testament, it also reveals to us who we are meant to be today. The Lamb that was slaughtered has also ransomed for God saints from every nation and molded us into a kingdom and priests serving our God, and reigning on earth. What marvelous good news, but do we recognize it, appreciate it? We are to be saints, a people who are Christ-like, living in the reign of God here and now, as we will be doing in heaven. After all, we do pray in the Our Father, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” do we not? Can we deepen our appreciation of this great mystery of our salvation already present while we wait for it to come in its fullness?
The founder of the Missionary Oblates, St. Eugene de Mazenod, recognized Jesus in the poor. He shocked the nobility of his day by speaking Provençal, the language of the common people, addressing them with dignity, and affirming them in their goodness. It is no accident that he gave us our motto, Evangelizare pauperibus misit me – “He sent me to evangelize the poor.” May we also recognize Jesus in others who cross our path each day.
Today, we honor someone who did that in spades – St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Also known as Elizabeth of Thuringia, she was born in 1207 to King Andrew II of Hungary and Gertrude of Andechs-Meran. At age 4, she was betrothed to Ludwig of Thuringia and sent to live in his family’s castle. They married when Elizabeth was 14, and by all accounts enjoyed a happy though brief life together. Elizabeth built hospitals to care for the needy and the sick, but many of the nobles resented the expense. When her husband died of plague while away on a crusade, Elizabeth was accused of mismanagement and had to leave Wartburg. Having made provision for her children, Elizabeth entered the Third Order of St Francis and spent her days caring for the sick, the aged and the poor. Renowned for her prayer, works of charity, spirit of penance and great gentleness, she died at Marburg in 1231 at the age of 24 and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1235. She is patron saint of the Franciscan Third Order and of Catholic charities.
St. Augustine used to give communion to those newly received in the church with the words, “Receive who you are!” because we truly are the Body of Christ. The Eucharist makes present to us the love of Jesus Christ poured out on the Cross. May our celebration awaken our faith and open our eyes to recognize how Jesus comes to us in our lives.