First Point.—The circumstances under which Jesus shed tears. Nothing on the part of Jerusalem seems to justify them, and with regard to Himself nothing seems to provoke them. In Jerusalem everything appears to inspire joy, everything breathes of happiness. From afar you may see the rich palaces, brilliant and lifting their domes to the clouds, her splendid temple, and her impregnable towers ; you can hear the sound of her joyous population, and the eye of man perceives nothing there which can explain the profound sadness of the Saviour. But the look of Jesus is not the look of a man; it is the look of a God before whom everything is unveiled. It pierces the future, it sounds the depths of hearts, it judges men and things, not after they have appeared, but before they had existence. And now behold the mysteries which the eye of Jesus discovered in the unfortunate city which provoked His tears.
On the Mount of Olives, where He had come to pour out His soul in prayer, from this lofty summit Jesus saw the fearful storm which was already gathering over the heads of this guilty people. Jerusalem was condemned to perish, and the sentence was irrevocably pronounced. Titus and Vespasian, who were to be the terrible executioners, appeared before the saddened eyes of Jesus. On the very spot where He had received a kind of triumph, Vespasian shall establish his camp for the extermination of the city; thousands of crosses are erected, on which the Jews must expiate their crime of Deicide; He perceives the burning of the city, the fall of its walls, the flight or the death of its inhabitants, the captivity of those who could neither fly nor die, the frightful famine which would compel mothers to devour their own offspring— the scene of desolation which must ruin the proud and unfaithful city was all before His eyes. Then it was He wept over it and its misfortunes. He had predicted it, and He would have hindered it; but His Father had pronounced the sentence, and He could only weep over the sad future of a city which He had loved so much.
On the part of Jesus, nothing seems to provoke the tears He shed. All Jerusalem carries Him in triumph, arid the multitude in its enthusiasm exclaims: "Glory to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Some extend their garments under His feet, while othersstrew flowers on the streets through which He passes. What, then, is the secret of His tears? Why sadness and sorrow at the moment when everything calls for happiness and joy? Jesus would teach us to restrain ourselves in prosperity by the expectation of the evils which may surprise us. It is written in our sacred books that joy and sorrow meet each other here below, and a day of joy may be the precursor of a day of affliction. It is not, therefore, necessary for a Christian to allow himself to indulge in a delirium of triumph, but it is necessary that he should strive to preserve, in the most lively and legitimate joy, a certain sentiment of sorrow which becomes a disciple of the cross and predisposes him to endure better the inconstancy of men and the reverses of fortune.
"I know well," said a famous orator to the tribune, "that the Tarpeian rock is close to the Capitol." One day the celebrated Ugolin, a chief of the Guelphs, having accomplished a complete triumph over a faction of the Gibelines, invited all his friends to a banquet. He recalled his recent successes, and asked of one of his most devoted friends if there was anything wanting to complete his happiness. "Yes," answered his friend, "the anger of God cannot be far from so great prosperity." He was indeed a prophet without being aware of it, for, some time after, Ugolin was conquered and taken prisoner; then he was imprisoned in a tower with his two sons and three nephews, and there they all died of hunger. Who is there that can securely count on the delusive' prosperity which comes to us here on earth?
Second Point.—What is the object of the Saviour's tears? If Jesus weeps, is it not over His approaching passion and death, since, some days later and amid the most bitter sorrows, He consoles the holy women who followed Him? He said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and your children." These words clearly indicate the object of His tears. It is the blindness of the Jewish people—a blindness which was followed by the ruin of their city and the loss of souls. To sin is the sad portion of humanity, but to persevere in crime and to have no wish to rise from that condition is the characteristic of the demon. Now Jerusalem, indisposed and laden with iniquity, rejects the Physician who had come from heaven to heal her; she refuses to know the peace which is offered her or Him who visits her. How could He restrain His tears when beholding such blindness?
That which increased the sorrow of the Saviour was that the unfortunate inhabitants of Jerusalem were amusing themselves at the very moment He wept over them. Everything in the city was festive and rejoicing, although they were on the eve of their last misfortune. "If thou hadst known, on this day, that which can procure thee peace, the day shall come when thine enemies shall surround thee and they shall overthrow thee, and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone." And so the tears of Jesus are disinterested, tears so much the more bitter because of the sorrows which caused them to flow, because they were shed over a city formerly faithful, loved by God, and filled with His most signal favors.
Several cities of Judea must share the same lot as Jerusalem; Jesus knew this. However, He wept only for Jerusalem. Ah, it was because it was formerly the cherished city of God, and because today it was the most ungrateful. When Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus the Jews said: "See how He loved him." Why, then, today, when He weeps over them, do they not say: "See how He loves us"? It is because all that is hidden from their eyes and they understand nothing of their own history.
The second object over which Jesus shed tears is ourselves. Alas, what a painful similarity to make between us and Jerusalem! And in this similarity how many traits of resemblance afflict the heart of Our Saviour and should cover us with confusion! As Jerusalem, we have been chosen by God as the portion of His inheritance. He has enriched us with His graces. At a certain epoch in our life we received Him in triumph, and we have promised Him an inviolable fidelity. What has become of our promises? What have we done with His graces? Jesus weeps over us, over our innocence lost, over our promises violated, and over the evils which threaten us. Today are we grateful, at least for the time in which He visits us? It is like the efforts which God makes to bring back the lost sheep—the loving searches of the Good Shepherd—to the fold; it is like the anxious solicitude of the woman who disturbs everything in her house to find the lost drachma.
God seeks us in two ways: At one time it is His love and His grace which call us to prayer which has been abandoned for a long time, or He knocks gently at our hearts in the assembly of the faithful. Again, it is Divine Justice which chastises us to recall us to the right way, and sends us afflictions to remove from our eyes the bandage which blinds us. Happy is the soul who knows how to correspond to the voice of God, whether it sounds with severity or whether it calls us with love.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897