“Our dearly beloved older brothers.” - Pope John Paul 2 proclaimed in April 13, 1986 on a visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome.
Gospel text (Lk 19:41-44): When Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now your eyes are held from seeing. Yet days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with barricades and shut you in and press on you from every side. And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and leave not a stone within you, for you did not recognize the time and the visitation of your God».
In today's gospel, St. Luke tells us about the approach of Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem. This will be the last visit to Jerusalem that Jesus will make during his public life here on earth. Jesus looks upon the city and he weeps. That is, he is overcome by intense emotion.
As I picture Jesus weeping, I seek the cause of his grief. Jesus then speaks of the destruction of the city which will happen 30 some years in the future, but which is already known to him.
I can think of several reasons for this grief. First of all Jesus knew that there would be terrific loss of life during the Jewish revolt. Included among them would be friends of Jesus and people who had heard him preach and teach. Also people who witnessed some of his miracles. Jesus very much valued his friends and those who followed him. And their cruel death would naturally cause him great sadness. Then there was the destruction of the temple. The great temple of Jerusalem was a very special place for the people of Israel. It was the location for contacting the One True God and seeking his help and his protection. It was thus very important to all the people of Israel. Its total destruction was a terrible blow to them. The Menorah and the sacred vessels were taken to Rome. The temple treasury was looted. And as Jesus says the destruction was so complete that not one stone was left upon another. When Jesus foresees all of this it causes him great anguish and he weeps for the people and their loss. There was also the matter of the Diaspora, or the scattering of the Jews. After the destruction of Jerusalem the whole land of Israel was devastated, and not fit to live in. Many of the people moved to other lands, some at terrific distances from Israel. The people of Israel, who had survived other periods of exile earlier in their history and had always returned to their land after a few generations, were destined to be scattered around the earth for nearly 2,000 years before some of them returned to the land of their ancestors. They also were to undergo much persecution from the people of the lands where they settled. The knowledge of all of this suffering for his people had to be a cause of great sorrow to Jesus. He himself was a Jew and he loved the people of his land. But Jesus also knew that the people of Israel did not always obey God, and this had to cause him sorrow. And so Jesus wept over Jerusalem.