An Enchanted World
“I felt there was no happier person on earth than I, and I doubted if there could be greater and fuller happiness in the kingdom of heaven. The whole outside world also seemed to me full of charm and delight. Everything drew me to love and thank God: people, trees, plants and animals. I saw them all as my kinfolk; I found in all of them the magic of the name of Jesus” (The Way of the Pilgrim).
If we could only recognize the things that make for peace. A soul filled up with Christ will be peaceful in every situation. Eyes open to reality find beauty everywhere. A heart that is pure can taste the kingdom, smell the kingdom, delight in the kingdom in each and every moment.
“As he came near and saw the city, Jesus wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
Jesus Christ wept when he gazed at Jerusalem. Why? One can imagine a hundred reasons why he might weep. The people in Jerusalem had suffered. They were victims of racism, hypocrisy, hate, and injustice. They were destined to be destroyed; each and every stone would be knocked over, and their priests executed. Yet, this is not why Christ wept. He wept because their hearts were blind. They failed to recognize the good life.
Εἰ ἔγνως ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ
“If you had known in the day.”
There is only one real tragedy. Our hearts are blind to reality. We get bogged down by the world. Our stresses through the week cloud our heads. Our desires for this thing or that weigh on us with such gravity, that we spend our lives walking with our heads cast down. We fail to perceive the reality around us, God, in his beauty and majesty.
“[My people] have eyes but are blind…ears but are deaf” (Isaiah 43:8).
“Surely you did not hear, Surely you did not know; Surely from long ago your ear was not opened” (Isaiah 48:8).
It is comforting knowing how God feels when he looks at the human soul. There is no wrath in our scripture today, while Christ gazes at the city. He is not eager for vengence. He is not scornful of their ignorance. He merely stands there, weeping, because they forgot the better things.
He weeps because our delusion prevents us from enjoying peace.
“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42).
Our opening quote was the account of a pilgrim who left the world to learn the Jesus Prayer. He was an average guy. He lived a normal life, went to work, took care of his family, and attended church on a regular basis. Once widowed, he decided to hit the road. He wanted a deeper relationship with God.
He took a little knapsack and some bread, and set off through the countryside with one objective: unceasing prayer. The man started repeating the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” One breath after the other became a meditation. Dawn to dusk, his lips prayed, and something changed inside him. Like the scales that fell off St. Paul’s eyes, for the first time, he began to see things as they are. The trees, the birds, the people on the road — everything lit up.
He saw reality for what it is — charged with God’s beauty.
“When I consider thy heavens, even the wórk of thy fíngers; the moon and the stars which thóu hast ordáined…O LÓRD our Góvernor, how excellent is thy Name in áll the wórld!” (Psalm 8:3,9).
Vincent VanGogh would sit and stair at a pair of old boots, mesmerized. He had a way of seeing the sublime in every blade of grass. In the same way, this pilgrim, with his heart anchored on Jesus Christ, saw the world illuminated. We too need to learn to see.
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 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. 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” (Luke 19:41-47).
The Israelites missed out on God. He gave himself to them, and they rejected him. The repercussions followed. Yet, in the midst of all this destruction, even with the collapsing walls and mourning nation, there is something promising here. This passage is not about death and gloom. It is about deconstruction and reconstruction. Everything that is not God will vanish. Everything built by man is a delusion. It has no foundation and crumbles. What is left in the end? What is always left with things fall apart? God.
God allows things to go wrong. He lets our health deteriorate. He permits our loved ones to pass away. Our illusion that we are in control always goes up into smoke. What can we make of it? It is God’s last and best gift: the gift of helping us let go.
“Then Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there” (Luke 19:45).
Finally, after mourning over Israel’s ignorance and predicting its fall, what does our Lord do? He walks straight into the heart of the city, and starts overturning tables. The God who loves us, because of his love, tears apart our delusions. He lets our sand castles get swept away by the tides of life. Why? So that we can recognize the greater things.
The pilgrim had to give up the world to learn to pray. He was widowed and impoverished. He was left nothing but a knapsack and a little food — a vagabond on the road. Then, in that poverty, he considered himself the happiest man on earth: he encountered God.
We live in an enchanted world full of beauty and wonder. Why are we depressed and anxious? So there is a lot of tragedy in the world. Christ predicted all this on the mountain top. But what does it compare to the greater news: the Kingdom of God at hand. We spend far more time with our nose buried in “current news,” than with our eyes lifted up towards the real news, the Gospel news, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we are dragged down by this world or dragged down in our problems, something is wrong. We should rethink our priorities. Wake up and smell the roses.