Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
By Fr. Francis Xaveir Weninger, 1877
“As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, seeing the city, He wept.” Luke 19, 41.
Jesus wept! At the sight of tears we are irresistibly impelled to interrogate the weeper as to the cause ot his grief. This is especially the case if conscience lifts up its accusing voice, and in warning accents reminds us that we are not wholly innocent in producing those signs of sorrow, and that there is no need for us to ask. If we are moved at the sight of grief in a creature like ourselves beloved in Christ what grief should fill our hearts at the thought that Jesus wept; and that our sins and ingratitude had their full share in drawing tears from those divine and pitying eyes! Holy Scripture mentions three different places where Jesus was moved to tears. The first was within sight of the fair but ill-fated city of Jerusalem. The second, by the sepulcher of Lazarus, as he gazed upon the corpse of that beloved friend, who but a few short days before had walked the earth in the strength and beauty of manhood; but upon whom the withering blight of the grave has fallen now. Jesus shed tears upon the cross, and with great vehemence, as we are told by St. Paul. At each of these places we might, had we been present, have exclaimed: “Lord, why weepest thou?” for most certainly we, in a double sense, have part in those sacred tears.
In the first place, by our sins we have often given occasion to the tears of our divine Lord; and secondly, if we are willing we can derive the greatest benefit from them.
I will first present for your consideration Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, and put the question: “Lord, why weepest thou?” Mary, whoso often didst weep, and for the same reason as that which drew tears from the eyes of thy divine Son, obtain for us from God a portion of that compassion which filled thy heart! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
As Jesus drew near the city He wept. As I have already said, at the sight of a person in tears, we inquire into the cause of his sadness. Much greater then should be our desire to ponder well on the motives which caused our Savior’s tears to flow, knowing as we do, that those tears, each one of which was more precious far than the rarest gem, were shed for us– for you, for me, for every soul created by Gos, that, falling upon our hearts, they might soften them, and bring us to true sorrow for our sins.
Our anxiety to know why the mourner weeps becomes more intense when the tears fall from the eyes of one who is bound to us by the tie of kindred or of love, and who, therefore, exerts a powerful influence upon our will. This is especially so if we can remove the cause of grief. Such is the known and acknowledged effect of tears. Nay, they frequently affect the beholder to tears also. Witness the Roman poet who said in the name. of the whole human race: “If you wish me to weep, then should you weep first.” Yes, these tokens of inward grief frequently possess greater moral influence than the eloquence which flows in burning words from the heart to the lips of the most earnest speaker.
Behold that father whose beloved son has forgotten the lessons of piety he learned at his mother’s knee, and who, seeming to forget and despise the tender love of that mother, and the constant care of his father, treats their advice with contempt and indifference. Exerting the remnant of his paternal authority, the father insists that the son should accompany him to the priest, who also exerts his utmost to move that obdurate heart, but in vain, and in silence they return to their homes.
But see, the sorrowing father goes before a crucifix and prays. The wayward son, from his own apartment, looks on, unseen, and although he knows well that those petitions are for him he is still unmoved. Suddenly the prayer is hushed, and no sound breaks the silence save the tears and sobs which have burst forth from a heart unable longer to restrain its sorrow. No prayer comes from that father’s lips, but he throws himself on his knees before the image of the crucified One, and silently implores Him to speak again to the heart of his child. And, my dear brethren, those tears fall upon the hard soil of that sinful heart. No longer unmindful of the voice of grace, he hastens to his father’s side, crying out: “Forgive, and help me to obtain God’s forgiveness!”
Look at that poor mother, whose only daughter has begun to neglect her religious duties, and is entirely absorbed in the fleeting pleasures of the world. Her entreaties seem to have no effect, and, ceasing them for awhile, she has recourse to prayer alone. The daughter, returning from a scene of dissipation, beholds her mother kneeling before the little crucifix, which surmounts the altar in that oratory where, in happier years, she, too, had loved to pray. The wayward child looks on unmoved, no thought of her mother’s care over her infant years and up to the present time comes over her heart; but, with a smile for the folly which leads any one to spend the hours of night in prayer, she turns to go. But, lo! the sudden silence arrests her steps, and, gazing within, she sees her mother weeping bitterly, and feels that it is for her. The sight of those tears which bedew her mother’s pale and anguished face is too much for her; she seeks her weeping parent’s side, and, assuring her of her sorrow, promises to lead a better life.
There is a man who steels his heart against every appeal of charity, and turns a deaf ear to the petitions of the poor. He turns in disgust from the cripple, who, at the street-corner, stretches forth his hand to solicit alms. Passing on, his attention is fixed upon a woman, who, pale and wan, and robed in mourning garb, crouches on a door-step, holding in her arms a dying child, and neither lifts her eyes nor asks for alms. She is oblivious to all except her child, which is suffering, perhaps, from some contagious disease. This man, who refused to listen to the clamorous petition of the crippled mendicant, stops to inquire into the case of this sorrowing mother, but his questions meet with scarce any reply, for her dim and sunken eyes, from which the tears fall fast, can see naught but her little child. That cold heart is touched and softened, and placing in the mother’s hand a piece of glittering gold, he hurries on without waiting to hear her grateful thanks.
Dearly beloved in Christ! if such an effect follow from the tears of frail mortals like ourselves, what power should be possessed by those which Jesus wept?
Christians, could you but look up and behold in this pulpit your Saviour weeping, how deeply would not your hearts be moved! With what feeling you would cry out: “O, dearest Lord! why dost Thou weep?” To this question Christ replied, and, as the fathers remark, He spoke not only to Jerusalem, but to all the sons of men, typified through Jerusalem, the city of God. Our divine Lord has given three reasons for His tears. Let each one ask himself the question: Do these reasons concern me or not? and what can I say to the Lord to assure Him of my fidelity?
So does Jesus complain. He beholds at a glance the millions who were reconciled to Him when arrayed in the white robes emblematic of the innocence to which they aspired; the waters of baptism were poured upon their foreheads, and in each of those souls He beheld a Jerusalem, a city of peace. But later on, when that baptismal innocence had become tarnished, and the grace which was meted out for their salvation, abused and trampled upon, what a terrible sight for Him by Whom those precious souls were created and redeemed! Children of God and heirs of heaven through the sacrament of baptism and now children of the devil and travelers on the road which leads to eternal woe–oh, can we wonder that Jesus wept?
Ask yourselves, Christians, and be not deceived by the enemy of your salvation, whether you, too, have not given cause for some of those tears! Have you not rendered yourselves guilty in His sight of grievous sin? Have you always been careful to wipe away those divine tears by true repentance and a thorough change of life? If you are still in a state of sin, delay not to console the heart of your weeping Saviour by a good and sincere confession!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often did I wish to gather thy children as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, but thou wouldst not?”
Here, too, while lamenting over Jerusalem, Jesus beheld the condition of the lukewarm and tepid Christian, who, turning away from the practices of religion, is in great danger of entering the broad and pleasant road which leads to hell. At the thought of the many graces which that soul would receive and abuse, Jesus wept.
Examine yourselves; has not Jesus reason to weep for you, O Christians, for whom a loving Saviour suffered and died? During how many years, and in how many ways has the Lord been calling and watching for you? He has called you to the practice of virtue, to a life of holiness; but as yet, perhaps, in vain. If so, let me entreat you no longer to disregard His voice, but to give Him from this moment an undivided heart.
Jesus weeps, and His plaintive cry is: “Jerusalem, thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straighten thee on every side, and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone.” The prophetic vision of Jesus beheld the destruction of the souls whose salvation He had purchased with His precious blood. Will you grieve His sacred Heart by being among the number? Say to Him, rather: “No, dearest Lord and Saviour, those tears shall not be shed in vain, for sincere repentance shall cause my own to flow; and thus, through the memory of those precious drops of sorrow, and the infinite merits of Christ, may my soul at last reach the home of eternal bliss!” Amen!
“And when He drew near, seeing the city, He wept over it.” Luke 19, 41.
Jesus wept, as Jerusalem, the beautiful, came into view, but it was not alone the sorrows of that ill-fated city which drew tears from His eyes; for, as I have before stated, Jerusalem is an emblem of the human soul, the literal meaning of the word being “City of Peace.” The soul, as it came from God, on the day of its creation, in perfect harmony with Him, was indeed at peace; and, after the fall, through the merits of Christ, such is again its condition as soon as it is supernaturally united with Him by the regenerating waters of baptism.
Would to God that all who have had the happiness of being united with the holy Church by baptism, would persevere in their innocence unto the end! Would to God, at least, that each fallen soul, if a child of the Church, would shrink from remaining for years and years in a state of sin and rebellion against God, and hasten to the refuge of the tribunal of penance, so aptly styled a second baptism!
But the Gospel mentions still another time when tears were forced from the eyes of our blessed Lord. And where was this? Where else did our Saviour weep? The place, my dear friends, was one, the very name of which must appeal with more eloquence to your hearts than could the most pathetic sermon; for it was the spot whereon the Saviour’ s cruel sufferings for our sins were consummated Mount Calvary! This most patient Redeemer, this most loving Saviour, this meek and innocent Lamb of God wept, because, looking down the long vista of years, which would witness the birth and death of millions, for whose salvation He hung upon the cross, He saw that many, in spite of all He had endured, would be forever lost!
Mary, who, under “the world’s redeeming wood,” didst unite the sorrow which oppressed thy maternal heart with the anguish of thy Son, by those tears which thou didst shed, grant that the words which I address unto thy children, today, may bring forth fruit a thousand-fold! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
Jesus wept on the cross, “with a strong cry, and tears,” as St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, tells us. And how, indeed, could it be otherwise? As the Saviour, Who was from all eternity chosen to redeem the human race, He had, as man, the most feeling, the most tender, the most compassionate heart. He alone could compute how many tears of compassion and mediation He shed for us, not only for the entire human race, but for every soul in particular, during His life, offering those tears in union with His prayers to His eternal Father.
This was especially so when He completed the work of redemption upon the cross. He beheld from that cross the total misery in which sin had plunged the children of men, as well as the horror of each individual sin. He, and He only, the Judge of the living and the dead, realized the number and atrocity of the sins which would corrupt the world. What motive could be more powerful for His sacred heart to be oppressed with anguish, than that which was found in the sad truth that those sins would be so many outrages committed against His heavenly Father!
His infinite merits, however, could offer compensation for them, no matter how heinous, if only man, by his co-operation with them, would resolve to avail himself of them, and work out his salvation. Could Christ have been consoled by this sight, He would not have wept upon the cross; or, at least, instead of tears of anguish, He would have shed tears of joy.
But, as King of the Prophets, before Whose all-seeing eye the most secret things are manifest, He beheld the innumerable souls who would be lost in the flames of hell! Hence those tears of utter sorrow such as were never shed before or since. And what more did the prophetic vision of Jesus show Him? That numbers of the children of men, by their own fault, not only would not participate in His sacrifice and merits, but, to their greater torment and perdition, would abuse them. Can we wonder that, when the conviction of all that was to happen overwhelmed the Sacred Heart with the concentrated agony of Gethsemane and Golgotha, those bitter tears were forced from His dying eyes?
Oh! what are all the tears which, since the world began, have been shed by sorrowing husbands and wives, parents and children, compared to those which fell when Jesus wept? Souls redeemed by Him, who listen to my voice, console Him by tears like unto those which Mary Magdalen and St. John wept, as they stood beneath the cross.
If the thought of the many who would fling away the benefits of His sufferings so grieved our divine Saviour that He wept, His tears flowed still more freely when, from the cross, He saw His weeping mother, the weeping disciple, the weeping penitent; but these tears were full of sweetness. If you would console our Lord, and show Him that His merits are not, through your own fault, lost upon you, mingle your tears with those of the three who loved Him so well.
To understand this better, we need but to consider what tears are those which come from the heart of a Christian who believes and loves and hopes; who reflects that they are united with all that encourages and strengthens us so to live that, through the merits of Christ, our sanctification and salvation shall be secured. In this regard they are tears of devotion, compassion, and reparation.
True devotion is that of which Christ says that it is a prayer in spirit and in truth; that is, a prayer of meditation upon the truths revealed by faith. St. Paul says: “Let us draw near (God) . . . in fullness of faith.” One whose faith is very lively, is easily moved to tears by the consideration of what faith teaches concerning our eternal destination, our fall and redemption through Christ. It was thus with Mary Magdalen beneath the cross. She contemplated the greatness of the infinite mercy of God, who, in order to rescue the sinner, sacrificed His only-begotten Son. Oh! how deeply did this thought affect her as she looked up to her beloved Saviour!
Christian, do you wish to dry the tears of Jesus? Ponder well, and take deeply to heart these truths: Who is He? What has He done for you? What glorious rewards has He promised? and you will shed tears of devotion which will strengthen you, for you are required not only to believe, but to live according to holy faith.
We are also moved to tears by compassion for the misery of others, especially if we have been the cause of their sorrow, and if they are united to us by the bonds of friendship or of blood. Mary Magdalen, at the foot of the cross, realized these feelings to the utmost. She saw the painful wounds of our Lord, and conscience vividly reminded her that her sins had inflicted many of them upon Him, Who was at once her Father, Brother, Friend, the Spouse of her soul!
Ransomed soul of man! ponder this well, comfort Jesus by your tears of compassion, and you will have every reason to cherish the hope that you will be saved! Weep for His sorrows, weep for the danger to which man’s salvation is ever exposed! What reason we have to elevate our tearful gaze to heaven, with the ejaculation: “Lord, save us!” God will not be unmindful of your prayers and tears; for the petition of the faithful heart is always heard.
The last motive which should excite our tears is, reparation. If we have offended One to whom we owe the happiness of our lives, how grieved should we be! Thus it was with Mary Magdalen. The sins of her whole life rose up before her spiritual vision, as she stood at the foot of the cross. Imitate her, beloved in Christ, and be assured that Jesus will not be unmindful of your sorrow, but will blot out your guilt, and then in you will be verified the words: “They who sow in tears will reap in joy!”– Amen!
“And when He drew near, seeing the city, He wept over it.”–Luke 19, 41.
Jesus wept. Holy Scripture gives us no record that Jesus was ever seen to laugh, and, in truth, it would seem out of place that the Incarnate Wisdom of God should ever do so. This is plain to us, since the mission of Christ on earth was so essentially one of mercy and divine compassion that it would rather call for tears. Christ consummated the work of Redemption with abundant means for all mankind to secure their salvation; and yet, in such a manner did the divine economy arrange all things, that man retained his free will either to obey or to reject the happiness that might be his. But, alas! how many abuse the grace of God, and stain their souls by mortal sin!
Jesus wept as He drew near Jerusalem. He wept as He beheld in spirit the precious souls for whom His sufferings would be fruitless, because they would abuse and trample upon His grace. But there were other occasions when He wept. We know that He shed tears at the sepulcher of Lazarus; but do we know what we are to understand therefrom? It is, “my dear brethren, that our Lord, to whom the years of time are as naught, saw, in one moment, the many Christians who, in every age of the world, in every year, in every month and day and moment of the passing years, would insult His Adorable Majesty, and trample upon his ineffable goodness. And this not only by the deliberate commission of grievous sins, from time to time; but by becoming habitual sinners, and burying their poor souls in the yawning grave of mortal sin.
The thought of this loathsome grave drew tears from the sorrowing Saviour, as He stood by the sepulcher of His departed friend. Mary, pray for us, that this very day may witness our resolution to free ourselves, cost what it may, from the galling chains of mortal sin! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
If the act of falling into sin, of falling from the state of grace into a state most hateful to God, of changing a child of God into a child of the devil, is already something so sad and horrible that the very consideration of it moved our Saviour to tears, all the reasons and motives for sadness, which are inseparable from such a spiritual condition, apply with greater force when a soul not only turns away from God by sin, but remains in it, and aggravates the malice of the offense by frequent relapses.
The deep and ever-increasing sadness that oppressed the heart of the loving Jesus, at the sight of the habitual sinner, has its origin in the malice of sin, in its aggravated ingratitude, and in the scandals from which the life of the habitual sinner is scarcely ever exempt. The lamentable state of the habitual sinner lies in the great malice of sin itself. The more clearly the sinner is able to recognize this malice, the greater it becomes; and, the greater the abuse of grace, the more guilty he is before God by his relapses, and the danger of final impenitence, to which he exposes himself.
Thus it is, however, with the relapsing sinner. After he has defaced his soul that fair temple of the Holy Ghost by mortal sin, he presents himself to the priest, he confesses his guilt; and, from the exhortations he receives in the sacred tribunal, he clearly perceives its atrocity.
There are many who, for years, commit sin after sin, whilst the prayer of Christ upon the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” may be aptly applied to them; but this can not be said of the habitual sinner, who confesses and relapses again into sin. He knows well that what he does is evil; but, as time goes on, it gradually loses, with him, its heinous character, and appears less horrible than the first time he yielded to the tempter. Poor, foolish, deluded sinner! he fain would persuade himself that his soul is not so deeply stained with guilt as his confessor would have him believe; and, in his self-conceit, he imagines himself to be wiser than the minister of God. He goes on thus, until at last he is given over to a reprobate state. Had he committed but one sin, and had God then called him away, his soul would have been lost forever.
In heaven the angels fell, and the Lord did not pardon even one of those bright spirits; but condemned them to dwell forever in that fire which was enkindled by the wrath of an angry God.
Christ has said, that swiftly as the lightning’s flash Satan fell from heaven to hell. He is and will remain forever lost, together with the rebellious hosts who chose to sin with him; and the relapsing sinner, instead of being grateful that he has been spared, not once, but many times, offends anew, not only in thoughts, but in desires, words and acts. At each offense, he grows more indifferent to his dreadful state, and Jesus weeps over his blindness. By what miracle will he be saved? If the warning threats of holy faith, and the admonitions upon those eternal consequences, which will inevitably result from sin, no longer exercise any power over him, what will be his fate here after? He is so accustomed to hear of God, of death, judgment, eternity, and hell, that it all falls unheeded on his ear.
If the bad angels, before their fall, had had such an example as the sinner, through their fall and judgment, has ever before his eyes, we may be sure they would never have sinned. If it could be that they might still possess their freedom, and such assistance of divine grace as man can always have, both as a sinner and as a faithful child of the Church, if he wish to return to God, or if he is firm in the practice of his religion, and wishes to remain so, there would not be one of the infernal spirits who would reject the means of salvation. The heathen sins, and grievously; but how much greater the crime of the sinner who knows, by the grace of faith, the heinousness of sin, and yet closes his eyes, and, by his willful relapses, goes to eternal perdition!
In regard to strength of will, the habitual sinner grows constantly weaker and less able to resist temptation; and, indeed, searches for new and more dangerous occasions to offend his Creator. Jesus is weeping!
The relapsing sinner stifles the voice of his conscience until its whispers sound like the echo of something faint and far away, so that he soon ceases to hear it, and at last ventures so far as to abuse the means which God left within His Church for the pardon of sin, viz.: the Sacrament of Penance. Jesus is weeping!
The crime of a sacrilegious confession causes the most intense grief to the loving heart of our Saviour, in the case of the habitual sinner; for it is there, above all, that this presumptuous creature dares to trample under foot the precious blood of Christ, to mock and scourge the Lord; and then, by an unworthy communion, to spit upon Jesus, who is really present in his heart, and deliver Him to His enemies. Jesus is weeping!
What a fearful stench arose from the decaying corpse of Lazarus! From the sinner, who is buried in the deep grave of sin, the same is exhaled. It comes from the thousands of crawling worms of shameful thoughts, words, desires and actions which will in time consume the total essence of his vocation to be a true child of God, and give bad example to others, so that they, too, infected by the pestilential vapor, with which such a soul is surrounded, will begin to offend God.
Christ looks upon the terrible effect which association with habitual sinners produces. His heart is sad. His soul is sorrowful, even unto death. Jesus is weeping!
Ask yourselves, now, whether there is any reason that He should weep over you! whether there is any mortal sin on your soul, or, still worse, whether that sin has become habitual! Would to God that this were the hour of grace, when the Lord in His mercy would call out to you, as He did to Lazarus: “Come forth!” O Christians, for the sake of your precious souls, come forth, I entreat you! Do it without delay! Be converted, and console the heart of the weeping Jesus, by a life of piety, in which relapse into sin will have no place! Amen! (2)