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?
Edina? St. Louis Park? 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.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstanís Church and Fr. Sisterman.