There are easy scriptures and there are hard scriptures:
It is easy to write a reflection on John 3:16 — "For God so loved the world." That is reassuring, and people like to hear it.
It is easy to write a reflection on Psalm 23 — "The Lord is my shepherd." It is lovely poetry and lovely theology. It assures us that God is with us in life and in death.
But it is not easy to write a reflection on scriptures like our Gospel story today… scriptures that spell out warnings….that pronounce judgment.
We are happy to know that God is a God of love, but we don’t like to hear that God is also a God of judgment. Some say that the Old Testament portrays a harsh God, a God of judgment… but the New Testament portrays a God of love. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was a God of love from Day One… and is a God of love throughout the Old Testament.
And God is a God of judgment… even in the New Testament. The purpose of God’s judgment, however, is a loving purpose…it is always to redeem… to bring us back into the fold.
In our Gospel today, Jesus warns Jerusalem that it will be destroyed. Jerusalem has rejected God’s ways and God’s son, and God is going to abandon it. God protected Jerusalem in the past, but now, because of its sin, God will withdraw his hand — leaving the city open to its enemies…. ripe for destruction.
And that, in fact, is exactly what happened. A few years after Jesus’ death, a group of individuals revolted against Rome, and Rome responded by leveling Jerusalem and slaughtering its people.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing."
It is interesting to note that Jesus grieved and lamented over the city of Jerusalem, because people were offered God’s message of love, forgiveness and salvation, but rejected it. I can only imagine that nothing in this world would hurt Jesus more than when people reject God’s love after it has been freely and unconditionally offered to them.
The tragedy didn’t end with the people of Jerusalem rejecting God’s love either. We too, in our sinful, ungrateful ways can also rejected God’s love. We have been offered God’s love, forgiveness and salvation and yet, how often do we rejected it?
We have received countless blessings in our lives from God. So, how do we receive them? Hopefully, we recognize them as such and are grateful for them.
Or, maybe we take them for granted; maybe we don’t appreciate how valuable they really are; we may even deny the fact that our blessings come from God and in a twisted way, we might even take credit for them ourselves. So, in a sense, God’s love is lost on us; Christ is lamenting over our rejection of him and his love that has been offered repeatedly to us.
Jesus longed to transform the heart of the people of Jerusalem, but the truth was they were unwilling. Jesus looks at us, his children, and he too reflects on what our hearts look like……….Our Scripture passage concludes today with Jesus’ words:
"But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." And all God’s people said…Amen.
Deacon Brian Clements is a retired member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California