Grace: The grace that my heart might always be a welcome abode for the Divine Word which so longs to dwell there.
Reflection: We consider two points in this meditation. The first point is that between His entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and His Last Supper, Jesus continues to labor on our behalf by preaching daily in the Temple. The second point is that, due to men’s neglect, there is no one to receive Him in Jerusalem, therefore He goes back to a place where He is loved and welcomed: Bethany.
Regarding the first point, let us note that this passage (Luke 19:47-48) is one of the many instances in the Gospel where the evangelists tell us that Jesus spoke to the crowds and instructed the people; however, the evangelists do not inform us what the specific words were or what lesson Jesus may have taught on these occasions. Instead it is left up to our prayerful imagination to discover what Christian message the Lord desired to convey to His hearers. This allows us to have a deep encounter with the Lord in our own prayer and to discover the lesson that the Lord desires to teach us today in the intimacy of the conversation we will have with Him in our heart through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. Whenever He taught the crowds, Jesus desired for His Word to be received with love in the heart of each person who listened and He desired for His Word to abide there. It is the same with us whenever we meditate on His preaching and think about the words he used on these occasions.
We can also note that those who come to hear Jesus represent the whole gamut of humanity, and each person is differently disposed to hear Jesus and to receive his words. As we contemplate the crowd that listens to the Lord, let us try to imagine their diversity. They range from children to old persons; from illiterate laborers to learned scribes and priests; from the merely curious to those who are hoping that Jesus is the Messiah. They are comprised of men and women from every walk of life, wearing all types of dress and featuring all sorts of colorful faces and expressions. Most importantly, within the crowd we find a full range of responses to Jesus’ teaching: from those who hang upon his every word and have the stirring of love within their breasts to those who are full of contempt for what the Lord says and would like to kill Him. Perhaps as we contemplate the group that listens to the Lord, we can ask God what disposition He wants us to have when we listen to His Word and teaching. Moreover, we can ponder, what was Jesus’ specific teaching to the crowd at this time? What did he want them to take away from it and what was their actual reaction?
The second point is that because He did not find anyone to receive him in Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Bethany (Spiritual Exercises #288) or the Mount of Olives (Lk. 21:37). During these Spiritual Exercises, we have contemplated the way that Jesus radically plunges into the depths of our humanity, taking on human flesh in order that He might redeem it. He makes Himself so little and suffers so much because he longs to find a home in our hearts. He longs to dwell there and to rule there as our King. Thus it should make us very sad to see that, despite his ongoing labor and continuous preaching of the Kingdom, men’s hearts remain cold and refuse to grant Him entrance. Jesus had said earlier in Luke’s Gospel that, “foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk. 9:58). Here this statement holds true regarding men’s’ hearts. There is no place for Him in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so he returns at night to Bethany.
But the name Bethany reminds us that Jesus’ Word does find a welcome in some hearts. We recall Jesus’ special love for the inhabitants of Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. These eagerly welcomed Jesus into their home and more importantly into the interior abode of their hearts. This is precisely why Jesus came down from Heaven and laid aside his infinite glory. The abode of our hearts is precious to Him, more precious even than the glory of Heaven, and therefore He knocks at the door of our heart and begs access. Will we allow Him entrance so that He might dwell there and transform our cold hearts into furnaces of charity, no longer repositories of self-love but hearts directed to praise and service?