St. Luke 19.vv.41-48

~ As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognised 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 recognise the time of your visitation from God". Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer', but you have made it a den of robbers". Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard. ~

The two most tragic words in our, or any, language are "if" and "only" when joined together; "if only you knew" or "if only you had known" denote regret in hindsight or, in the context of this text, regret for that which is hidden from sight or knowledge.

Not on his own behalf, but for that of others, Jesus must often have repined or felt regret at the blindness, obtuseness, ignorance and failure of those he came to redeem.

Life for us all is full of frustration and disappointments; we all say, "If only I had known or realised ...".

The Gospel story of the five wise and five foolish girls (Matthew 25.vv.1-13) is a good example of the folly of being unprepared. The marriage customs described in the story may be unfamiliar, but the lesson is easily understood - "if only we had ...".

Many people have recurring dreams by night of lost opportunities, lost things, lost places. Psychologists recognise that beginning with infantile frustration and sense of loss we may be haunted by feelings of loss throughout our lives unless by God's grace we recover that which we have lost. But how, it may be objected, can we do this?

The answer is simply we cannot, but God can. If we have "lost our way" in life, full of regret and penitence we have the Good News of the Gospel - God desires to love and care for us; we have the presence of Christ with us; God forgives and offers us another chance. We may have lost our ideals and fallen short of the glory of God, but Christ can raise us up. We may have lost our joy in life, but he who spoke of his joy and peace as he went to the Cross can restore our joy. What many of us regret most is the lost opportunity - "if only I had ... if only I had not ... said or done ...". Some things cannot be unsaid or undone, but the Good News is that God forgives and Christ never casts us off. Christianity is not simply the religion of the "Second Chance". A cat has only nine lives, we say, but by God's grace we have again and again the chance to repent (turn round) and begin again in the power and grace of the Lord Jesus.

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