Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Return to the
Lord thy God!"
In order to understand today's
Gospel, we need to look back to the Old Testament, to see the relationship
between God, His Jewish people, and the city of Jerusalem.
We know that when God delivered His
people out of bondage in Egypt, He was with them personally as they
journeyed across the desert. He was with them by day as a pillar of cloud.
He was with them by night in a column of flame.
All through the journey, they had tangible evidence of His presence. When
they stopped along the way, they set up a make-shift sanctuary of tents for
God to dwell in. When they finally reached the Promised Land, the tent was
set up permanently until the Temple was built to replace it by King Solomon.
In Hebrew, the word for this
“presence of God” is the “shekinah.” We might think of it as being
something like the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the
tabernacle of a Catholic church. But there was an important difference.
The “shekinah” was present in only one place—not like the Blessed Sacrament
in numerous tabernacles throughout the world.
While the Jews might have synagogues
anywhere in the world, where they might gather to pray and to hear the word
of God, there was only one Temple. There was only one place where the true
Presence of God dwelt with His people—and that was in Jerusalem. Indeed the
Jews mocked the Samaritans, who set up a rival temple elsewhere (on Mount
Gerizim), for the Samaritan temple was an empty house, devoid of God's true
So when our Lord pondered the
destruction of Jerusalem—a destruction He knew would come only 35 years
later at the hands of the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus—it was a moment
of extreme sadness to Him. As a Jew, Jerusalem and its Temple represented
to Him the covenant of God with His chosen people—a symbol of God’s favor on
them. As God, it was the destruction of the city and the house in which He
had dwelt for many years.
Yet, despite this tenderness and
pity for Jerusalem, our Lord knew that He would allow it to be so completely
destroyed that the prophetic words would be literally true: “not so much as
one stone would be left standing on another stone.” Everything would be
There is an important warning in
this Gospel: God is merciful and compassionate, but He is also just. The
price for rejecting Jesus Christ, and looking for a worldly king to drive
out the Romans was the destruction of this most precious city. In reality,
the price was the destruction of the whole nation; the voiding of the
covenant of God with His chosen people.
And, just as there was justice for
the Jews as a nation, there was justice for individuals. Those who had
secularized and commercialized the worship of God were thrown out of the
Temple; beaten with a whip.
St. Paul generalizes a bit more, and
explains that we will be punished whenever we “lust after evil things.”
He too goes back to the Old Testament, and reminds the Corinthians that
those who rejected God's law while in the desert were struck with a plague
But, even these serpents were merely a foretaste of what was to come—a
warning offered for our correction, before it is too late and the final age
of the world has come upon us. A warning to “avoid temptation, lest ye
As a nation, we must remain faithful
to Jesus Christ. Certainly, we in America have received many favors from
God. Our land is wide, and contains many natural resources. It is not too
hard to compare ourselves with the other nations of the world, and feel that
we are God's new “chosen people.” But just as that could be taken away from
the Jews, so it will be taken away from us if we reject the Kingship of
Christ; if we refuse to conduct our affairs in conformity with God's law; if
we, as a people, refuse to acknowledge even His existence. Indeed, it seems
that there is a direct correlation between our decline in prosperity and our
decline in public morality.
And, likewise, as Jesus drove
individuals out of the temple for their personal rejection of God—so too
will he reject those of us as individuals, who withhold our obedience, our
love, and our devotion from Him.
“God is faithful, and He will not
tempt us beyond our strength”—but He does expect us to do our part.