Picture yourself in today’s gospel. You are walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem but Jesus suddenly stops. Gazing down upon the city, Jesus begins to weep. Jesus’ sorrow breaks your heart because, standing near, you can see that his tears are born from love. As he looks down upon Jerusalem, you hear Jesus say, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Jesus grieves all the violence and bloodshed, all the suffering and affliction, all the hatred and exclusion, all the injustice and indifference. He grieves all the unnecessary pain that human beings inflict on one another. And he especially grieves all the missed opportunities to love.
But can’t we also picture Jesus looking down over the cities and countries where we live today and weeping? Cannot we imagine him looking into our homes, our communities, our societies, and our world, and saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes”? We know the path to peace is not found in accumulating weapons, building walls, and threatening wars. We know we will be strangers to peace when we lash out in anger, insist on having our way, harden our hearts, and shut the people we are given to love out of our lives. But still, against our better judgment, we persist in those hopeless ways until “what makes for peace…is hidden from our eyes.”
In the first reading from Revelation we are reminded that the way to peace is not found in the attitudes, habits, and practices that are so destructively familiar to our world, but in the Lamb that was slain, the crucified and risen one who gathers together “those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation,” making all of us one. As we come near the threshold of Advent we await the one whose life of mercy, justice, compassion, and patient love reveals the true path to peace. Following him is the only way to stop breaking the heart of the God who loves us and calls us to life.
Paul Wadell is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the extended Passionist family.