LENT 2        24 February 2013        Gospel: Lk 13.31- 35

We can confidently assert that the first sound everyone here made was a cry. The first sound the Word Incarnate made must have been a cry when the midwife who assisted at his birth slapped the new-born God. Then Joseph smiled; Mary’s eyes shone with joy. Her son had been born. God was born and his first word was a cry.

We are told that the last sound the Word Incarnate made on the cross was a loud cry, not of pain but of triumph at the fulfilment of our salvation.

Tears, lamentation, are a necessary part of the human condition. The Son of God experienced that when he became a child and so throughout his life to his death.

The Gnostics and the Marcionites denied that, because Christ as God, so they thought, could not suffer. However, the Gospels affirm that they were mistaken. Jesus shed tears when he stood by the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. In several places the Gospels tell us that on his final visit to Jerusalem , as Jesus looked across the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives at the Temple and city of Jerusalem , he pronounced woes and lamented. St Luke says he wept. 

Today a beautiful, small church marks the spot, Dominus flevit, where the Lord shed tears. Behind the altar there’s a large window giving a magnificent view of the golden Dome of the Rock and the old city as it is today. Jesus was looking at the recently constructed, splendid Temple buildings and porticos as he lamented their doom.

Our Gospel today tells us that during the journey to Jerusalem Jesus lamented when he thought of his destination. ‘"erusalem , Jerusalem , the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. See your house is left to you desolate". St Matthew’s Gospel has the same words but, more appropriately, they are placed at the end of the journey when Jesus was preaching in the temple itself. (Mt 23.37-39). Luke also tells us that Jesus wept when he saw the city during his triumphal entry, which we will commemorate on Palm Sunday. (Lk 19.41-44)

"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace but now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side and level you and your children within you to the ground and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation". This prophecy was fulfilled when Jerusalem was besieged and taken by Titus in AD 70.

Jesus pronounced a lament over Jerusalem for two reasons. It had rejected God by rejecting his messengers in the most absolute way, by killing them. He wept at the thought of the disasters which would befall the city. Yes in Roman times but also all down the centuries, under the Crusades and even today. We recall his words to the women as he carried the cross to Golgotha "Do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children". (Lk 23.27-31)

Christians used to believe that the Jews alone rejected God and that responsibility for the shedding of Christ’s blood was entirely theirs. Now we understand that all humanity has rejected God in various ways and all of us have a share in the crucifixion of his Son, Jesus Christ. He weeps for us all and laments at the punishment we deserve.

The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, states "Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf John 19.6) neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed  during the passion. It is true that the Church is the new people of God, yet the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture".

A little further on the Declaration affirms "The Church always held and continues to hold that Christ out of infinite love freely underwent suffering and death because of the sins of all men, so that all might attain salvation. It is the duty of the Church, therefore, to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s universal love and the source of all grace".

Crispin Harrison CR