“And Jesus Wept” – Reflecting on Palm Sunday

by | Mar 25, 2021

In the spring of 2019, I was reviewing the prayer experiences of the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises, preparing to “journey” with Jesus through his passion.  I prayed my own “passions,” pain and concerns in conversation and imaginative contemplation with Jesus.  Scripture accounts from all four Gospels describe Jesus’ “triumphal entrance to Jerusalem” with jubilant cries of Hosanna from His many followers. (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19.)*  However, for the first time, I noticed something new:  Luke added four thought provoking verses describing how “Jesus wept” over Jerusalem. (Luke 19: 41-44)*

  • v 41- “As he came near the city, he wept over it,”*
  • v 43- “Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side.*
  • v 44- “They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’”*

The words “he wept” as he looked ahead toward Jerusalem “because you failed to recognize the time of your visitation” immediately caught my attention.  Using Ignatian Contemplation, I entered into the scene. I stood next to Jesus on his donkey as he paused to look toward Jerusalem and ponder.

I sensed a quiet stillness surrounding us amid the bustling of the crowd.  I felt the warm breeze, smelled the dry dust, saw the anguish is Jesus’ face and drooping shoulders, watched as his eyes overflowed with tears.  And I wondered what those tears signaled.  Was he surrendering to His suffering and death that He knew lay ahead?   Was He “tuned in” to all the violence in the world, the political upheaval, the refusal to be open to goodness, the denial of truth, and the preoccupation with greed, the lack of awareness of God’s loving presence, near and far? 

A year later, Palm Sunday 2020 arrived at the beginning of the Pandemic lockdown.  I had no palms to commemorate the day.  Instead, Luke’s account “and Jesus wept” came to the forefront of my prayer and has repeated itself over and over during this difficult year with each appearance of desolation.   Again, using Ignatian Contemplation, I pondered often if Jesus were to look over our world today, what would bring him to tears?   It did not take me long to experience Images of people suffering long and dying alone from the circumstances of the dreaded COVID 19 illness; images of children emaciated from starvation in faraway war-torn countries; images of other frightened children being torn from their parents’ arms at our very borders and then confined behind fences.  Further images of the brutality and murder of black men, women and youth as terrible witness to prevailing racism which only brought to mind recent shootings and violence in our homes, our places of worship, our schools, in the very hallowed spaces of our government buildings, as well as additional places of essential comfort and need.    My contemplative image of “Jesus weeping” repeated itself more often than not!  

Now, with Palm Sunday 2021 just a few days away, I prepare to complete my 2021 Lenten journey of reflection.  Gratefully, I find myself turning from the ponderings of Luke’s words “he wept” toward other invitations in Luke 19:41-44.* 

In consolation, I hope for courage to live out “the things that make for peace!”  I hope “to recognize” God’s Presence, with openness to what might be “hidden from [my] eyes.”   To acknowledge those “ramparts” or barriers that still “crush” or discourage new ways of being with each other and our planet, in love, compassion, mercy and hope;to realizethat, indeed, Jesus will rise again.  May our weary human hearts be ready to receive Easter Blessings for renewal and rebirth.

With gratitude, dear neighbor, I invite your Palm Sunday and “Holy” week reflections upon these words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


*The HarperCollins Study Bible, Revised Edition. 2006. HarperCollins Publishers.