Sermon: Palm Sunday – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”

Flevit super illam/He Wept Over It by Enrique Simonet

Five days pass between Jesus’ triumphal entry, which we read about before receiving the palms, and the beginning of the Passion narrative. In those five days, many things happened, including the telling of many great parables, Jesus cursing the fig tree, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the washing of the disciples’ feet. Jesus also has several run-ins with the various religious leaders and, at one point, speaks many condemnations to them, saying, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”

Jesus condemns them because of their arrogance in thinking they were better than others, for binding up the people with so many rules and regulations that those who desired to serve God were overwhelmed and disheartened in their faith, for putting faith in things over caring for people, for forgetting to show justice and mercy and to be faithful, for condemning others when they themselves are in error, for hypocrisy and lawlessness, and willful ignorance of their own faults. He then concludes with a lament over Jerusalem,

The lament begins, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,”—another way of speaking of the religious leaders and those who have failed to believe—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37-39)

With those final words, Jesus repeats to this same group the words proclaimed during the triumphal entry, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In doing so, He is saying to the religious leaders, “You have not yet believed, but there will come a day when you have no choice but to believe.” As St. Paul said to the Philippians, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 29-11) 

“Woe to you, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you will bend your knee and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and you will do so either out of love and obedience or out of fear, trembling, and judgment… but you will confess.”

The error we can make today is wrongly believing that these words do not apply to us. That was then; this is now. Woe to those religious leaders and others who do not believe. We are safe, for we are God’s people, but that is the exact same thing those religious leaders thought. Therefore, we must be on our guard so that we do not become Jerusalem, Jerusalem, and it is an easy trap to fall into. We will do so by making the same mistakes as they made in the past—by putting up barriers to God, by caring for things, by not showing justice, mercy, and faithfulness, by condemning the world around us while thinking we are the holy ones, and by being willfully ignorant and turning a blind eye to our own faults. 

Declare, not only with your lips but also with your heart and soul—your entire being—declare, “Blessed is he—Blessed is Jesus who comes in the Name of the Lord,” and leave behind that old Jerusalem so that you may become citizens of the New Jerusalem. A city, as St. John tells us in his Revelation—that has been adorned as a bride for her husband, the dwelling place of God, where there are no more tears, no more mourning, crying, pain… no more death. (cf. Revelation 21:1-4) Become citizens of that New Jerusalem where all things have been made new and restored to God.

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