Most people have not had the privilege of going to the Holy Land. When we hear of Jerusalem, we think of recent history, of the sad and seemingly unending conflicts that have marked the land of Jesus. Jerusalem, what can it stand for?
“Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.” (Luke 19:28)
This is the opening phrase of the first of the two gospel passages we will hear on Sunday, the beginning of the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In the Gospel we read this year, the city of Jerusalem has special meaning; with every chance he gets, St. Luke underlines it.
Earlier in his Gospel, Luke summons strong language to emphasize his theme: “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Why? Because Luke is telling Jesus’ story by using the image of the ancient Hebrew prophets, the prophets who came in the name of God but who could not persuade the people. In Luke 13:33, Jesus states that a prophet cannot die anywhere other than Jerusalem. Then he cries out: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together…but you were unwilling!” (Luke 13:34)
Not that Jerusalem was any worse a city than any other, or that its inhabitants were any worse than we are. Rather, Jerusalem represented the destiny that Jesus accepted, the way his proclamation of the Kingdom worked itself out in the midst of sinful humankind. But acceptance of that destiny, in trust and love, will yield not defeat, but the greatest victory for all people.
Jerusalem, then, represents the basic option that all of us have: either to open our heart and embrace the prophetic Word in Jesus Christ, or to close it down in resistance.
It’s not a bad question to pose at the start of Holy Week.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where, in your life, you have opened your heart and where you have closed your heart to Jesus.
Set aside some time today to pray specifically for Jewish-Christian relations. Pray that the progress of the past fifty years can continue and flow into greater understanding.
Lord Jesus, as you prepared to enter Jerusalem, your heart was filled with anguish, even as the people rallied in joyful expectation. May the anguish you felt, and the agony you suffered, lead us all to accept the grace of your Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us ease the burdens of your suffering and Passion as you see the Kingdom come alive inside us.