1Mc 2:15-29; Ps 50:1-6,14,15; Lk 19:41-44
Today’s feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary is hidden to the eyes of history, but in faith we see in the presentation of the Theotokos that the holiness given to Mary at her conception continued in her childhood and in her maturation. Our sister churches in the East celebrate the Presentation of the Theotokos with much greater solemnity. In the West it is merely a memorial, without its own readings; not so in the East. The prayer of the Mother of God was heard; the Lord God attended to her outcry from her lips without deceit. She walked steadfast in the paths of holiness; her feet did not falter. The Blessed Virgin Mary was kept as the apple of the Father’s eye; she was hidden in the shadow of his wings. In her justice she beheld the Father’s face; on waking she was content in God’s presence. When the Lord was born of her flesh, when his glory appeared on the face of the earth, the joy of the Theotokos was full and overflowing into the lives of all who love her. We, too, have become temples greater than any made by human hands. Like the Mother of God we shelter and hide the Incarnate One so that in our own day he might appear in glory as we give ourselves over to his Kingdom here and yet to come.
In times of distress the LORD rescues us, and this becomes our reason for giving glory to God every time we gather for this Holy Sacrifice. In every generation the LORD provides strength and courage for his people to live in faithful response to the covenant summons that the LORD has spoken from the rising of the sun to its setting. Indeed, the Holy City, Jerusalem, or as King David called it, Zion, shines forth in perfect beauty because it has heard the summons of the LORD and responded in faith. The LORD delights in the praises of his people, of those faithful who gather before him and have made covenant with him by sacrifice. All the Powers of heaven and earth join in the praise of his People, Israel. The faithful ones give voice to the praises of all creation. Indeed, all creation proclaims that the LORD is just. He alone is the just judge. In our reading from the First Book of Maccabees we hear about the holy zeal that motivates his People in the midst of their pagan oppressors who are trying to force them to abandon their Covenant with the LORD. The Gospel reveals the tears of our Savior who has come to summon all to offer sacrifice, the sacrifice of love. In the life of Saint Elizabith of Hungry we behold the wealthy and powerful becoming humble and generous because they realize what we realize the LORD is our only true wealth and to share his love with the loveless and unloved is a greater joy that any worldly power or prestige. Today, we join Saint Elizabeth and all the saints in the perfect sacrifice of praise as we follow the Lamb of God wherever he would lead us.
The officers of the king use a rhetorical strategy that is still familiar to us centuries later. They work the crowd looking for the leader. Once the leader is identified then they begin by praising him. They make him look even more important among within the group. They use flattering language; saying, “You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kin.” After feeding the ego of Mattathias, these representatives of the oppressors invited him to be a real leader. They summoned him to live in the real world of this foreign king and his foreign religion, after all it makes sense to live in reality and not fool yourself thinking that you can oppose the authority of the king. Such and appeal to realism and self-importance has no power to persuade this man and his family who are loyal to the religion of their ancestors and their covenant with the LORD God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Another so-called Jew came forward to offer the sacrifice to the false god of the oppressive king. Such blatant disloyalty to his own tradition may have been an effort to make himself important in the eyes of the king’s men, however it only aroused the zeal of Mattathias, who made him the sacrifice by killing him upon the altar. We are summoned by such zeal to live our faith without compromise. We are inspired to sacrifice any desire to impress our oppressors and save our skin in the reality that has been set up for us by those who disregard the truth and the LORD who has reveal his truth, that alone can set us and our oppressors free. Only by a faith filled witness, only by the shining example of our faith in Christ, will we and our enemies come to know the mercy and salvation of the Lord Jesus, who is the Way the Truth and the Life.
The Lord Jesus fulfills one of his own beatitudes in our gospel today. The Lord Jesus shares with all who mourn, for they shall be comforted. The Lord weeps over the holy city, Jerusalem. He weeps because of the devastation upon all who have rejected him and the abundant life he has come to share with us. The mourning of the Beatitudes is the sadness of one who knows the beauty and joy of salvation. It is the sadness that arises in a heart that is honest enough to see that the LORD is not Lord of all. Indeed, there are many who refuse to rejoice in being children of the Most High, and living in the truth of his natural law and his reveal commandments. This is the true sadness of the blessed, that many are still ignorant or rejecting the joy of salvation. The enemy still delights in making us weep—thinking, not aright, that our weeping means we will give up any efforts at spreading the good news. Indeed, the evil one delights to smash us to the ground and dash our children upon the rocks, so that we will be discouraged and despair of God’s mercy. Rather than give up on God, we delight to share our weeping with Christ. Indeed, his compassion in our tears inspires religious men and women in every generation of the church. We, too, delight to share in the suffering and joy of the Cross, as we pray to recognize the time of our own visitation.