The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Following the lectionary for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for Pentecost IX: St. Luke 19.41-47.
God our Savior will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, Our Lord God is constantly reaching out to us; constantly seeking us out; constantly offering Himself to us. And as He does, He urges us to deny our self-chosen loves, to sacrifice willingly and freely all that we are, and to live in the love that He gives, the love that He is. For He truly cares for us. And so Our Father does not wish us to suffer misery, or to grieve, or to experience hardship. Neither does our Father desire, will, plan or devise that one of us should turn away from Him and His mercy. He would rather that we attain true and lasting happiness by faith and obedience. He would rather that we attain the good that He is, and live forever within Him, by abandoning self-reliance and instead pinning our hopes solely to Him. When we do that, then we have the freedom to own up to the evil we do, the meanness we feel, the temptations that overtake us, the fears that control us. For when we rely solely on Our Lord and look to Him as the most loving Father, then we know that He will not turn His back on us, that He will quickly and enthusiastically embrace us, that whatever suffering we endure will be for our everlasting good, and that He will never cease to lavish upon us His unending love.
This love we see in today’s Gospel. Our Lord Jesus looks down on Jerusalem—not in anger, but in love. He sees them as they are now, and also sees what they will do and the regrettable path they will take. He sees the disobedience, the pride and the arrogance of His beloved people—of the people He calls His own. He sees them pulled along by the nose by their selfish desires, and enslaved by their fears, and blinded by their hatred. And He sees the end—how it will all play out, how they will destroy themselves, how their pride will bring down their beautiful city and their wicked instinct will drive them to consume their own children. (Cf) When Our Lord Jesus sees all this, He pities them. And when He beholds the city, He weeps over it.
Let us understand that Our Lord weeps, not because He is helpless in the face of such evil. For the Lord does not stand idly by when the devil attacks His creation; or when evil threatens good; or when the wicked murder the righteous. Our Lord weeps, not because He is helpless or because His hands are tied. Rather, Our Lord weeps because they refuse the help He offers, the mercy He speaks, the forgiveness He presents, the hope He gives, the love He is. He weeps because He offers them a way out—the only way out—and they will have nothing to do with Him and His offer. He weeps because He knows it does not have to end this way, yet He sees that they are bent on destroying themselves. But most of all, Our Lord weeps because He loves them; and in His love, He longs for them to attain happiness by loving Him, by trusting Him, by fearing nothing but Him, and so by welcoming the peace with God that He is and gives. Yet they refuse to know the things that make for their peace.
Let us also understand that Our Lord’s love is not like the fearful love that we often have for others. Our Lord will not smother us with His love. He will not love us in such a way that He forcefully makes us love Him. He will not override the freedom He has given us to choose our own loves. And so, like all true love, He risks all—even losing us—so that He might gain us wholly and completely. And so Our Lord weeps—because His beloved has spurned true love; because His beloved has rejected His love; because His beloved has preferred another love—a love that will not satisfy, that will fade, that is fickle; and so, a love that is not strong as death, and will not raise the dead to life.
Yet Our Lord has been raised from the dead. He is strong as death because He overcame death. And Our Lord is stronger than death since He has both raised us from the dead, and will raise us from the graves. And so you have seen His love—how He willingly sacrificed all for us; how He gave of Himself entirely so that we might entirely have Him and His love. This has not been hidden from your eyes of faith; and you have known the things that make for your peace. And with all this, you know that you have also been called His own, His beloved, the love of His life.