Faithlife Sermons

Dominica IX post Pentecosten


LESSON: Recognizing the time of our visitation

In a passage unique to St. Luke, we are given, in today’s Gospel, some insight into Our Lord’s thoughts as he made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Even though the crowds are cheering around Him, Our Lord is weeping for the city, knowing that in just a few days time the Jewish leaders will conspire to have Him killed, lamenting the future destruction of Jerusalem because they did not recognize the time of the Lord’s visitation.
Reading this passage today, we might wonder how they could have been blind to such a miraculous time in history. God Himself, walked the Earth as man, He came down from the Heavens to bring salvation to mankind, He bridged the gap that was created by Adam’s sin. Nevertheless, the vast majority refused to see who it was that was in their midst.
Reading this passage today, we might also think that we would not have been among that number who were blind to the presence of the Messiah, we would have been among His faithful disciples that recognized Him for who He truly was, and would have been the first to cheer His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Unfortunately we can never know if that is true or not, or can we?
If we want to know whether we would have recognized Christ when He walked among us, we can simply ask ourselves how well we recognize Christ when He visits us now. Each and every day, every hour of every day, God sends us His graces, which we call Actual Grace, supernatural helps and inspirations which guide us in our spiritual lives. Actual Graces may inspire us to prayer, or to good works, they may inspire sorrow for sins and conversion of heart, they enlighten the intellect and fortify the will.
The challenge we have though, is not only to recognize and understand these graces for what they are, but to respond and allow God’s grace to move us. Failing to recognize the time of God’s visitation in our own lives can be as devastating to us as failing to recognize Christ was to ancient Jerusalem.

ILLUSTRATION: St. Francis and the Spanish Gentleman

St. Francis Borgia lived in 16th Century Spain, not far from another man who was an exceeding great sinner. In the midst of his evil ways, a terrible illness overcame him. Some of his friends who were faithful Christians, upon seeing the extent of his illness started to urge him to be reconciled with God, so that he would not face death unprepared.
He laughed and said, “There is plenty of time. Besides, I am not so ill as you imagine.” Nevertheless, his friends continued to speak to him of the necessity of going to Confession saying that the doctors had declared his case hopeless. As soon as he heard the word ‘Confession’ he burst out in anger and declared that he would never go to Confession, even though he was sure his death was as hand.
St. Francis Borgia was told about the man’s obstinacy, and seeing that he was in danger of losing his soul, knelt down before a crucifix, and prayed with tears in his eyes that Our Lord would not allow his soul to perish. As he was praying for this poor sinner, a voice seemed to come from the crucifix saying, “Go, Francis, and visit him, and exhort him to repent.”
St. Francis immediately went with great joy, thinking that as God Himself had sent him, he was sure of obtaining the man’s salvation. But although he spoke to him for a long time, the sinner refused to make a Confession.
The saint left the room and returned to the church. He knelt down as before, and prayed with greater fervour for his conversion. The same voice again spoke to him, “Go back once more to the dying man; take your crucifix with you. He certainly must have taken a firm resolution to lose his poor soul, if his heart is not melted at the sight of the sufferings I underwent for him.”
St. Francis returned to the sick man’s room saying, “I am come again to ask you, in the name of Jesus, Who died for you, that you repent of your sins, and so escape the eternal pains of hell.” Still the man refused to listen to him. Francis then took the crucifix he had brought and place it before the dying man’s eyes. At that moment the figure on the cross appeared miraculously as if covered with the actual wounds and blood that Christ himself had suffered.
“Ah, my child,” said the saint, “look how Jesus loves you, although you have so grievously sinned against Him! Oh, do not refuse this special grace! Return to Him now, and He will forgive you and take you to His home in Heaven.” But his exhortations were in vain. The man refused to accept the grace, and St. Francis saw him die in his sins, a victim of his obstinacy.
Just as Jerusalem was destroyed because it did not recognize the time of its visitation, we need to be attentive and recognize those moments each day when God visits us with His graces so as not to lose our souls.

APPLICATION: Recognizing our time of visitation

God communicates His graces to us each day in many ways, subtle movements of inspiration, the pricking of our conscience, and even through the encouragement, counsel, or correction that we might receive from someone we know. But if we do not recognize these graces for what they are, they will slip right on by and we will be completely ignorant to God’s inspirations.
If we want to truly be attentive to, and act on these movements of grace, then there are three key daily practices that we must keep up:
First and foremost, as always, is prayer. We need to set aside time each day to encounter God in prayer, to become familiar with His voice. This means not just ‘saying prayers’ but praying, having an intimate conversation with Our Lord, faithfully each day. If we are constantly skipping our prayers because we are too busy, or because we can’t be bothered, then we will never recognize the time of Our Lord’s visitation.
Second, we need to practice the Discernment of Spirits. This goes hand in hand with prayer and allows us to more easily recognize the movements of grace in our soul, as well as the attempts of the Evil One to derail us. Thanks to the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola we know that both God and the devil work on the soul in very understandable and predictable ways. We need to learn these and practice his rules of discernment. You can find these rules online, and Fr. Timothy Gallagher has a number of books which teach this practice in a very understandable and readable way.
Finally, we need to practice the Daily Examen. At the end of each day we need to spend time in God’s presence reviewing the day, looking not only for those times when we have fallen into sin, but also looking for those moments of grace that God sent our way that we may not have recognized at the time, and make resolutions to help us respond better tomorrow.
Today Our Lord will visit us on the Altar in the Holy Sacrifice, and when he does, let us ask Him for the insight to recognize His visits in our daily lives, so that we may recognize the time of our visitation.
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