The Gospel according to Matthew (11:20-24)
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:
Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Opening Prayer: Loving Father, I pray that I am observant of the miracles You have worked in my life, not just those we read about in Scriptures. Please help me to recognize You in all the ways I see You each day. Let me not take for granted the ways You reach out to me. Let me see You in the ordinary, that I may transform it in some way through Your Spirit within me. Amen.
Jesus is clearly not pleased with the communities listed in today’s Gospel. They were towns that He had visited and preached at during His ministry. They got to hear His message from His lips, and to see the mighty deeds He wrought with His own hands. But, despite that, those towns largely rejected His teaching and did not become His disciples.
If you’re like me, you may be saying, “If *I* were there, I would have listened and taken Jesus’ words to heart. I wouldn’t have been like those from Chorazin or Bethsaida or Capernaum!” But, would we really have acted differently from those who saw Jesus in the flesh? Would we really have reformed our ways and followed Him?
That’s the conundrum of today’s Gospel. At the core, it shows that while, yes, our faith is a gift from God, it is not meant for us to keep to ourselves, or to hold close as though it were some sort of trophy. That’s precisely what Jesus is upset about here. Those towns, even after seeing and hearing Jesus in the flesh, still stuck stubbornly to their old ways. Jesus’ message and His love are not meant to just be taken in some abstract way – no, they are to transform us from the inside out! If we are not transformed, then, in Jesus’ words, we are no better than those in Chorazin, Bethsaida or Capernaum who rejected Him.
Now, Jesus is not saying that to indicate that judgment has already been rendered for those towns (or for us, if we are not sharing His love and message as we ought). He is saying it as a warning, that we may realize what we are doing (or not doing), and start anew to live His love and message.
The tricky part is not to try to use human intellect or wisdom to share Jesus’ love and mission in the world. That’s like only using the horizontal beam of the cross to demonstrate God’s love. To do it fully, we have to integrate with the vertical beam – the one that connects heaven and earth through the sacrifice of Jesus. When we keep that dimension in mind, it allows us to channel God’s very Spirit in all that we do. Then, we can be transformed, and we can start to transform the world around us.
How do we do that in our families, in our workplaces, in our communities? We start by asking God to show us what it is that He wants us to do to bring about the Kingdom of His Son, and then we respond to that word from the Lord and do our best to live the life of a disciple of Jesus. That is a life that transforms first ourselves, and then, as we act in faith, it transforms those around us and through all of our efforts, it transforms the world. It starts, though, with each of us sharing that love with those in our lives who need it most. Who needs that touch from you today? Ask God to show that person to you and to give you the grace and courage to share Jesus in your words and actions today.
Closing Prayer: Jesus, I ask You to show me where You want me to go today with Your love and Your words. May I know that it is Your wisdom speaking through me, and know that You go with me, everywhere I go. Amen.
Action for the Day: Be one who loves without expecting anything in return. Do something nice for someone that they may not recognize was from you. Then, know that God is rewarding you for that kind act!