|“Glorious things are said of you, O city of God!”
Jerusalem, Mount Zion, was a place. Yet, it became the symbol of much more than a place. It came to represent the presence of God in this world.
In the first reading, people from all over the world, people from strong nations, people from every nationality who speak different languages, come to Jerusalem because they are seeking the Lord and imploring his favor. Even before they can arrive in the city, they lay hands on any Jew they can find and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” It is assumed that, if you live in the city of God, you will personally know God and be able to guide others to him. This picture beautifully illustrates St. Augustine’s statement that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. The nations are hungering for God so they are going to associate with anyone that they think God is with and go wherever they think God is. The missionary outreach of the Church has assumed that all peoples from all nations have this inherent thirst for the living water that is God and that all we need do is to point them to the heavenly Jerusalem that is revealed in Jesus Christ. But this also requires that we who live in the City of God know God and this knowledge can be seen in the way we live. Could you imagine a time when people grabbed onto you because you were Catholic and said, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”?
The responsorial psalm continues this theme. The City of God is a glorious place that the Lord loves. People from every nation abide therein, nations that originally would have nothing to do with the physical city of Jerusalem. Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia – these were enemies of Israel. But now they are described as having been born in Jerusalem. The City of God is their home, too. “And all shall sing, in their festive dance: ‘My home is within you.'”
In the Gospel, Jesus is traveling to the earthly city of Jerusalem. He was resolutely determined to journey there because his days “to be taken up were fulfilled.” The earthly city was a symbol for the heavenly city but it had turned into a place that killed the prophets so where else would Jesus go to die? However, Jesus wasn’t simply resisted by the insiders who ruled in Jerusalem. Many outsiders would not receive him either. James and John want them punished for it but Jesus rebukes them and moves on. That wasn’t the purpose of his mission.
In every age there are those who are hungering and thirsting for God and those of us who dwell in God’s City can help them to find the living bread and water and have their deepest longings quenched. But we shouldn’t be so naive as to think that there won’t be religious and political leaders who persecute us for our efforts or that there won’t be those along the way who resist us for any number of reasons. We should take courage, though, and never give up because the City of God is our home. It is the place where God dwells. And who knows who will hear the invitation to come to Mt. Zion and dwell therein? With great joy we can say to them, “Welcome home.”