23 November
Lk 19:41-44

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognised on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God."

The journey to Jerusalem is almost over.  In the verse just before this reading, the people were singing and shouting for joy as they accompanied him.  Suddenly a change of mood: Jesus himself is weeping.  (Luke’s gospel is noted for these contrasts: the Beatitudes and the woes, the two in the Temple, the rich man and Lazarus.)  Jesus lamented over Jerusalem.  He wept.  He did not weep because he hated cities.  He wept because he loved.  Love is the right reason for most things.  His words were almost entirely of quotations from Old Testament prophets: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea…. He was not the first to grieve over Jerusalem; nor was he the last.

Across the valley from the city of Jerusalem there is a little church called 'Dominus flevit', which means 'The Lord wept'.  On the base of the altar there is a small mosaic showing a mother hen with her chicks.  They are under her wings for protection, some of them peering out in the way that chicks do.  It is the only representation I have ever of Jesus’ saying that he wished he could gather the people of Jerusalem to him in the way a hen gathers her chicks (Mt 23:37; Lk 13:34).   It is a motherly image, warm and protective. 

If you think it is too sentimental an image you can think of it as follows.  We used to call the Church on earth "the Church militant," a rather off-putting image, suggesting fundamentalism; but it meant to convey that we are struggling with sin, in other words, with ourselves.   The trouble with us is that we find it all too easy to be militant against other people, but we are chickens when it comes to struggling with ourselves.  

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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