(Before reading Epistle): If the epistle sounds a just little cryptic this morning, it should be enough to understand that Saint Paul is recalling an event from the Old Testament, calling to mind how some of the people being led through the desert. out of Egypt, were being unfaithful to God even though He had been providing for all of their needs. The important theme here is the importance of fidelity to the one true God; fidelity will be rewarded, infidelity will be punished.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians x: 6-13 Gospel: Luke xix: 41-47.
The Old Testament sometimes reads like a continuous story of fidelity and infidelity. God chose a people, promising them that if they were to keep His ways they would be taken care of in all of their temporal and spiritual needs. He brought them out of captivity in Egypt and brought them into a promised land, where he allowed them victory after victory over the inhabitants of the land, so that they might eventually establish a little bit of heaven on earth in the Temple at Jerusalem. But yet, the same narrative is replete with examples of idolatry; of God's chosen people following after false gods and their idols.
If you have been following the reading outline in the Parish Bulletin you have been reading the Books of Kings, and you have seen God promise David that one of his descendents would always rule upon the throne of the kingdom. David, of course, consolidated the kingdom, winning many battles over the inhabitants of the land. His son Solomon would enjoy a reign of peace, during which he would build God's temple, and Israel would enjoy prosperity.1 But the kingdom, for all of its earthly splendor, would be short lived indeed. For Solomon in his great wealth would tike wives from the foreign nations -- something like a thousand wives and concubines -- and he would build temples to their false gods, and actually worship alongside of them; Moloch, and Astharte, and Chamos the idol of Moab, and all of the false gods of his wives. And as a result, God divided Solomon's kingdom, taking away what He had given David, and dividing the land north and south into the two kingdom's that would be called Israel (in the north) and Juda (in the south).
For a few hundred years the two kingdoms remained separated, but independent of outside control. But both kingdoms were eventually conquered and taken into captivity; the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians; the southern kingdom of Juda by the Babylonians and the Persians. Eventually their captors would allow them to return, but not before a large foreign population was settled in Samaria, and never again as their own political masters. The temple would be rebuilt, but foreigners would be in political control. The empire of Alexander the Great would give way to its successor kingdoms, chiefly the Seleucids and Antiochids; and they in turn would be replaced by the Romans whom we encounter at the time of Christ. Only briefly would Jerusalem be free, in the tiny kingdom of the Machabees around 150 B.C.
The Gospel this morning is a continuation of the same theme. God came to visit His people, not through Moses or the prophets, but this time in Person. But even in the Person of Jesus Christ, he was rejected again -- and not so much by the religious Jews, but by those who viewed Him is a political liability in the light of Roman occupation:
Our Lord, of course, knew that this would happen, and today we see him weeping over the fickleness of His people, and the destruction of the Sacred City it would bring about. About 70 A.D. under the emperors Vespacian and Titus, Rome would wipe out the last vestiges of Jewish resistance -- and Jerusalem would be sacked so violently that our Lord's prophecy would be fulfilled almost literally, with hardly a stone standing upon another stone. Even the former Temple of God would be reduced to a single section of a wall.
Now, so far, this has been another one of my history lessons. And history is useful, but understand that the Church has us read these readings because they apply to us every bit as much as they applied to the Jews of the Exodus or at the time of the destruction of the Temple.
As Christians, we are God's new chosen people. No longer a particular racial or ethnic group, God's chosen people are now made up of any and all who believe what He has revealed and who strive to keep His Commandments. But we must clearly understand that it is not enough to be nominal Catholic. It takes more than having been baptized and confirmed, more than attending Mass on Sundays, more than an occasional Confession and Holy Communion. Those are signs of God's choice, but they must be more than signs. God expects fidelity of us.
The problem, you see, is that it is possible to do all of those things and yet to be unfaithful. Despite the outward signs it is possible to follow false gods as King Solomon did -- perhaps not the gods of our desert neighbors (although that happens more often than it should, with people having lost sight of the uniqueness of God's religion -- and some having no God at all), but, more likely, to make gods out of things like money, and power, and self indulgence, and pride. It is possible to go through the motions of being a Catholic, while never seriously intending to keep the Commandments. It is possible to call one's self a Christian, but never to seek out God's love or to give it back in return.
God gives us much. He doesn't not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength; like Jerusalem, He has given us many things for our peace. God is a good God, and even a tolerant God, willing to forgive all of our foolish mistakes. But as He demanded it of Solomon, and of those people He led out of Egypt -- God demands the same of us -- Fidelity.