It does not take a great scholar or much thought to identify the theme of today’s reading as repentance. Baruch records a public prayer of penitence and petition. Psalm 79 is a communal lament for the return of God’s favor. And Jesus chastises whole communities for their rejection of his proclamation of the Kingdom.
It is important to note that we are dealing with communities here. Collective bodies of individuals of all walks of life (citizens, kings, rulers, priests and prophets) who have followed their “own wicked hearts, served other gods and did evil.” The sin of one harms the others. Individually and collectively, they have failed to respond to God’s love in their lives. They have failed to recognize God in each other.
Jesus contrasts the Phoenician communities of Tyre and Sidon with the Jewish communities of Chorizen and Bethsaida. Tyre and Sidon “know” nothing of the God of Israel, nor have they witnessed Jesus’ miracles. Chorizen and Bethsaida on the other hand should know better. They have the Law and the Prophets who have foretold the coming of the Messiah and the advent of God’s Kingdom, yet they failed to acknowledge Jesus and God who is working through him. The Jews have been given the ability to respond, but fail to do so. Tyre and Sidon will fair better because they are ignorant of their response-ability.
Luke’s reading of this incident is not as clear as Matthew’s (10:16-31), but the meaning is still there if one applies the ‘you’ in his statement “Whoever listens to you listens to me” to Capernaum. Jesus is telling Capernaum, and us, that just because they have accepted him does not mean that they are going to heaven. (Is 14:14-20)
The Gospels portray repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation at the center of Jesus’ preaching. We have been given the ability to respond to Christ through our Baptism. As Christians we need to accept our response-ability to repent, forgive and reconcile with each other and with God.
Katrina has opened our eyes to the great divide that exists along class and racial lines in this country. Katrina has pointed out the injustice of our social institutions, which have their beginnings in our failure to respond to others, and as a result, our failure to respond to God. Our failure to be responsible for the least among us is our social sin. Sin always harms our brothers and sisters, and blocks communion with them and with God.
We cannot just put a band aid on this gash. We have the ability to reconcile the inequity of our social institutions, not just in the ravaged cities of the Gulf Coast, but throughout our country where the same policies, practices and prejudices continue to harm our brothers and sisters.
We have the ability to respond and the responsibility to “become the change we want to see in the world.” (M. K. Gandhi) God has given us a wonderful chance to repent of our selfishness and to reconcile with our brothers and sisters. We can be mother, brother and sister of Jesus and respond to God’s Word and to act on it. "To those who have, more will be given." Think "responsibility" in understanding why God would give more to those who already have much. Will you say yes to the responsibilities that God has placed in front of you?
Lord, help us to understand the greatness of your merciful love and may the fire of that love burn the trash of our mediocrity that we may strive toward the perfection that is you. Of faith give us firmness, of hope give us firm certainty and of charity, zeal. May we become heroic in every virtue and attain holiness and wholeness with your help. (G. Giaquinta)
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