Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Homily for November 17th, 2016: Luke 19:41-44.

          “As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it,” we heard in the gospel. Just twice in the four gospels do we read that that Jesus wept: at the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus; and in today’s gospel, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was God’s Son, endowed with divine powers. But he was no Superman immune to human sorrow. Whatever grief and sorrow we experience, Jesus experienced more. He understands, and he is with us in all our own griefs and sorrows.

          Today’s gospel reading immediately follows Luke’s description of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we celebrate on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees object to the cries of acclamation with which Jesus was greeted: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples,” they say (vs. 39). To which Jesus responds: “If they were to keep silence, I tell you the very stones would cry out.” Jesus may be referring to an obscure passage in the prophet Habakkuk, who says that against people who practice violence, living only to feather their own nests, the very stones and doorposts of their houses will cry out (Hab. 2:9-11). Habakkuk’s message is that of all Israel’s prophets: ‘God is not mocked. Evil actions bring evil consequences.’

          That is what moved Jesus to tears. Like all devout Jews, he loved the holy city of  his people, Jerusalem. To see the leaders of the people rejecting the Messiah, whose coming all the prophets had promised, grieved the Lord deeply. Note that I said “leaders.” Many of Jesus’ people did accept him. Most of them were “little people,” as the world judges things: Mary and Joseph, the fishermen Peter and his brother Andrew, James, and John; and Matthew, an outcast because he collected taxes for the hated government of occupation.  

          That remains true today. Pope Benedict said often that most of today’s saints are “little people”: St John Vianney (the Curé of Ars), Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”), our own Rose Philippine Duchesne, Maximilian Kolbe (who gave his life in Auschwitz that another prisoner might live), the 20th century Mexican martyr Miguel Pro, and Mother Teresa.

          The greatest people in the Church are not those with the impressive titles and fancy clothes, but those who are closest to God. What better could we pray for in this Mass, than that we may be among them?