Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
l Corinthians 12:1-11 and Luke 19:41-47
Coming within sight of the city, He wept over it and said, "If only you had known the path to peace this day, but you have completely lost it from view."
If you were to journey to the modern city of Jerusalem, you could see on the western slope of the Mount of Olives a little church that is called Dominus Flevit Church. "Dominus flevit" means "the Lord wept". It was built not long ago to commemorate the event that you have heard in this morning's Gospel when Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. It's a beautiful little church. With it copula and turrets, it looks like a sentinel tower. If you look at it in another way, it looks like a teardrop. It's magnificent little edifice. If you go inside the church, you would see the main altar on its western wall. Above the altar, rather than a work of art or a frieze, there is a great picture window. As you look past the altar, through the window, you behold a panoramic view of the modern city of Jerusalem. One cannot help but stand in this place and think about the event recounted in today's Gospel; Jesus weeping over the city.
If you place the story in context, Jesus had, no doubt, spent the previous night with His friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus at the town of Bethany, which is on the other side of the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, He began to travel to Jerusalem. It was the first Palm Sunday. What a magnificent view of the city he would have as He came over the brow of the hill that is the Mount of Olives. He beheld before Him, across the Kedron Valley, the city of Jerusalem glistening in the morning sun before him. It was said that when pilgrims came to Jerusalem and saw the gleaming white city, they would cry for joy.
The irony here is that Jesus our Lord cried tears of pain and sorrow. On Mount Zion, there is the temple of Herod, a beautiful marble edifice, with its colonnades and golden dome. So beautiful! And as He looked at the panorama of the city, He could only weep.
It's the second place in the Scriptures that we read that Jesus wept. Remember that He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. For those who remember your basic Bible study, that is the shortest verse in the Bible. "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
Now He's weeping over a city. For He knew what was about to happen to that city. In less than 40 years, Roman legions would come down from the north, sweeping all before them until they laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. They completely cut it off, built their ramparts and eventually breached the walls, entered the city, and slaughtered everyone they could find. Some did escape to the south into the Judean hills. The Romans destroyed everything. Jesus was right. There was not a stone left upon a stone.
Now He was about to enter that city on the first Palm Sunday to the accolades of the people. "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!" By the end of the week they would be crying out for His blood. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The crowd was that fickle. Jesus our Lord did not cry over the city because of what was to happen to Him there: He would be arrested and tried and scourged, crowned with thorns, spit upon, nailed to a tree and die in an ignominious way at the gate of the city. He did not cry over that.
He cried over something else. He had called them to Himself. He had announced to them over and over again the coming of the kingdom. Two messages rang loud through the streets of Jerusalem. "Repent! Change your lives" and "Come follow Me." And they did not hear the word. Their indifference led to their downfall and destruction.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus, who loved the city and loved the people of Jerusalem, said this: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, murderess of prophets and stoner of those who were sent to you! How often have I yearned to gather your children, as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused Me." (Matthew 23:37). So Jesus wept.
You and I might hear the words of today's Gospel and wonder, "What city would Jesus weep over today? Belgrade? Beirut? New York? Los Angeles? Minneapolis? Melbourne, Sydney or my own city of Launceston.? What city would He weep over today?" Of course, there is blatant sin committed within every city. We can name a particular metropolis 'Sin City'.
But I think the one thing that Jesus was weeping over was not that kind of activity so much as the indifference of the people He loved; that Jesus meant so little to them. That's why He wept. And that is why, I believe, He would weep for so many of our cities today. Of course, there is blatant sinfulness, within the cities. Even more so there is the indifference that says, "Well, yeah, Jesus is all right. Christianity is OK. But I've got other things to do. I've got other places to be. I've got other more important interests at stake than religion.
It is that kind of indifference that spawns so much of the other evil that we see. If a person loses the moorings of his faith in God, how can he be expected to behave in a civilized and virtuous way? It begins with indifference. More to be pitied are those people who know that Jesus is Lord, that there is no other, and fail to follow Him. More to be pitied, they, than those who have no idea of who Jesus is and do their wrong. More to be pitied is the person who has been baptized and confirmed, sealed by the Holy Spirit and fails to live the life of the Spirit described by St. Paul in the first reading. That person is to be pitied. That is the person over whom Jesus would weep.
So what can we do about it? Individually, we're not going to change any cities. We know that. But cities are much more than buildings. Cities are people. Would Jesus weep over us? That is the question that we have to ask ourselves this morning. Would Jesus find things in us that He would want to weep over? He would weep over our unrepentant sins, and say, "For this, I came into the world: in order that you might have abundant life; that you might have peace in My name; in order that you might become a member of My kingdom. Abandon that sin and turn to Me."
Could He weep over our indifference? Our really not caring? Our saying, "Whatever religion is, there are other more important things in my life and religion is for Sunday only." That kind of indifference would cause the Lord to weep.
This morning, as we offer our Eucharist to our heavenly Father, as we offer the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord to our heavenly Father, let us pray for our cities, where each of us lives. Let us pray that you and I can make a difference with other people, that they might know who Jesus is because of our witness. If they know who Jesus is because of us, they would come to love the Lord and surrender their whole being to Him. For that is what religion is all about.
Jesus entered the city and went up to the temple and drove the money changers and all their hangers-on out of the temple. It wasn't because the money changers were there that Jesus was so angry. Coming hard upon the picture of Jesus weeping over the city, is the anger that Jesus felt at the indifference of the people. "My house shall be a house of prayer," says the Lord, . "You have made it a den of thieves." "You have prostituted what the Lord God has given you." Indifference over what was sacred Mount Zion, the holy place, is what angered Him.
Pray God that He would never be angry toward us. Pray God that you and I would be repentant sinners; that we would abandon all indifference; that, in this Eucharist, we would surrender ourselves, our souls and bodies, to Jesus who is Lord.
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania