Thursday of week 33 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 19:41-44

Jesus is now on the last stage of his mission. He approaches Jerusalem, which will be the scene for the last great act of his life – his passion, death and resurrection. From here too will rise up the new community founded in his name, commissioned to continue the work he had started.

As he approaches the city he weeps over its tragic end. He implies that, if the city had received him as Lord and King, it might not have met the fate that was in store for it. “If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from view.” The second half of the word ‘Jeru-salem‘ means ‘peace’, shalom. The city had not known the ‘path to peace’, which, of course, was that which led to Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the source of all peace in our lives. And it has hardly known peace since that time, especially where the Jewish people are concerned.

The rest of the passage is a prophecy of what in fact is going to happen to the city. We know that it was besieged by the Emperor Titus in the year 70 AD. However, Jesus’ words are built up from many Old Testament references and seem to refer rather to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC as much, if not more, than that brought about by the Romans. And, as none of the distinctive features of the Roman siege are mentioned, the words seem to date from before that time.

But, of course, it was the Romans who destroyed the city and its huge Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was reduced to ruins. The Temple was ransacked and its most precious ornaments, including the seven-branched candlestick, were carried off. All of this is sculpturally recorded in the triumphal Arch of Titus erected in Rome to commemorate his victory and which can be seen in the Forum to this day.

All this will take place, Jesus says, “because you did not recognise the time of your visitation”. So many failed to recognise in Jesus as Messiah God’s coming to visit them and rejected him.

With the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish faith was dealt a serious blow from which it may be said it has never fully recovered. No temple has ever taken its place for it is felt it can only be on the same sacred site in Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the Jews, a mosque stands on the site today and is not likely to be removed. All that is left of Herod’s temple is the Wailing Wall, where Jews go to lament their lost glory.

For us Christians, there is no exclusively holy place, although certain places are of special significance to us. But, as Paul reminds us, each baptised person is a temple of the Spirit and is to act as such and be respected as such. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them,” Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 18:20).

Such a gathering may be at a solemn papal Mass in the magnificent basilica of St Peter’s in Rome or it may be Christians gathering secretly in prayer in a labour camp in China. It does not matter. It is the closeness to Christ and to each other that matters and not the place.

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