Our Lord’s visit to Jerusalem is like a woman who plans and prepares a gourmet meal, decorates the table and pours the wine for her husband, eager for the romantic time they will have together. But she waits all alone. He is in the bed of another. His visit is like a child who brings home a school art project and a bunch of flowers to find his mother on the phone. He says, “You’re pretty. I made these for you.” But her only response is to dismiss him with a wave as she drops his gifts into the trash.
Our Lord took up our flesh, became a man like us, and walked this earth. He suffered blisters and callouses, rashes and insect bites. He knew hunger, thirst, discomfort of every sort, and pain. He knew loss. At the very least, He buried St. Joseph, His step-father and caretaker. He knew betrayal from friends, prejudice, and irrational hatred. He knew all the sorrows, pain, and losses of men. And the worst of all that, was not when they stretched out His arms and bent back His wrists to drive nails through His flesh into the boards; it was not being hoisted up so that He had to lift Himself up and tear at those nails for each breath. Even as His life ebbed away among the jeering and the blasphemy, what hurt most was that He was rejected by those He loved. They did not want His gifts.
The things that make for peace: nails and thorns, a scourge and spear. The chief priests and scribes sought to destroy Jesus. They could not stand His teaching. They knew it was true. He spoke with authority. There was nothing contrary to Moses or the prophets. No one could argue with Him. He even slipped through their traps of logic and ethics. Nor could they dispute or deny His miracles or find any moral failure in Him at all. He was without sin and without error. That is why they hated Him and wanted Him destroyed. His Word cut at their hearts, it endangered their place in society. He called them to give up their lives and they didn’t want to. He held up the Law as a standard and they knew they had failed. They were guilty and ashamed. The accusations were too true and too many and they knew the Law would destroy them, so they sought to destroy it by destroying Him. “If we kill the vineyard owner’s son,” they reasoned, “then the vineyard will be ours.” They sought to destroy Jesus to be free of the Law, free of God’s demands, free of accusations and the curse.
Here is the irony: it worked. They meant it for evil, He meant it for good. They did it in hatred, He suffered it in love. They did it so that they could sin without judgment or punishment, He did it to forgive their sins and create in them a new heart and life for God. The things that make for peace: nails and thorns, a scourge and spear, two cruel logs hoisting the Word of God up from the earth, to satisfy the demands of Justice and draw all men to Christ. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. There is the peace that passes all understanding.
Now is the hour of visitation for you. No man knows what the future holds. Amend your ways and your doings. God has good things for you. Don’t trust in the lying words of your heart, which tell you, “Calm down, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not as bad as some others. You are confirmed. You pay your dues.” Remember Jerusalem, O Sinner, and repent. Your sins are many and frequent. Call upon God. He will hear your voice. Ask for forgiveness. Cast your burden upon Him. He will sustain you. Confess. The temple of your heart has become a den of thieves. Swing open the doors of your lips and Christ will enter in, whip in hand, to drive out everything with which you have defiled yourself. His Body and His Blood will purge your soul and cleanse your heart. He is long-suffering, patient, gracious, and merciful. He loves you. He will redeem your soul in peace. He will save you and your children, gathering you about Himself and covering you with the wings of His Holy Spirit. For this great, suffering God has always loved you. He never holds a grudge. It is not too late. He wants you even now and is eager to commune with you, to be your God.
The things that make for your peace: nails and thorns, a scourge and spear, the Body and Blood of Jesus, alive, out of the grave and at the right hand of God, your Advocate and Defender. In Him, peace on earth.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.