October 27th, 2022 – Thursday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel, we heard Saint Luke’s version of Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. In particular, Christ uses a beautiful image to describe the way He desired the salvation of the citizens of Jerusalem, and, indeed of all peoples: “How many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!”
We can break this phrase down into three parts: first, how many times! Christ laments the fact that time and time again, He has sent prophets and other messengers to the Jews. Furthermore, God’s will is eternal and immutable; if Christ wanted to save them at one point, He wants to save them at every point. “How many times” is really “all the times,” or “at all times.” As Paul writes Timothy, God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). We can ask ourselves, how many times has God sent us grace after grace? Do we really appreciate His providence in our lives, since Providence is God’s most constant expression of His love for us?
Second, we have the image proper: as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. This is the action that Jesus wanted to take. The Greek word for hen is the generic term for mother bird and the gathering of the brood under the mother’s wings is perhaps one of the best examples of natural affection in the animal kingdom. Gathered under the wings, the young are hidden and protected, and it enables the mother to defend her offspring. We can think of how the Psalmist makes the same point, with different words. For instance in Psalm 17: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who despoil me.” Or in Psalm 63: “You indeed are my savior, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.” Without trust in God, we won’t turn to Him and won’t let Him be our fortress and deliverer. We can ask ourselves: how much do we really trust in God? Are we really gathered under His wings?
Thirdly, we have those painful words, but you were unwilling! The problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of will. Here Christ spells out the painful consequences of freedom, the ability to choose God or reject Him for all eternity.
Today, we can reflect on Christ’s words, replacing our names for Jerusalem. Would Christ issue the same lament about us? Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, the Daughter of Zion, for the grace to turn to Christ as our shield and stronghold, and to let ourselves be gathered to Him.