The Readings for the 15th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
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.Matthew 11:21
WHOA, there! Jesus is being rather a downer, ne c’est pas? Things surely are not that bad, that rejecting you makes us worse than Sodom? As I noted last week, actually yes.
The punch lines comes in the readings tomorrow – in the way that the Lectionary has of breaking the Gospel into bits too small for much content. But I’m ok with moving slow – this passage wasn’t in the pre-Vatican II lectionary. So, it’s a better thing to get it at all!
But Jesus is on a bit of a tear here. WHat have these cities done that makes them worse the Sodom?
They rejected Jesus.
And it’s possible that it’s hard to think of cities rejecting religion. We’re so used to thinking of religion as a personal thing that imagining a whole city guilty of rejecting the Gospel is impossible in our culture. Yet we see it all the time: whole swathes of people reject things. You can’t say many people in my city of San Francisco would have welcomed the most recent former President had he shown up here. It’s possible, then, to imagine a group of the same individuals coming – collectively – to individual choices which result in the whole city rejecting Jesus.
But if that’s how it is for the cities… how is it for the individuals? Cities can’t be sent to hell, although they can be destroyed. How will it be for the individuals who make the choices, one by one?
What are the choices we make to accept or reject the great things done in our midst?
It’s easy to run after teachers – clergy or theologians – who say what we want to hear. How do we know we’re hearing the truth if all we hear makes us feel comfortable? That’s a bad analogy because the same thing can be said of liberals and conservatives, of right and left. We all go running after teachers who say what we want to hear – even if it’s very hard to hear. And being made uncomfortable is not the only proof of the Gospel. (Paul says making someone stumble in their walk to God is proof of not-Gospel.)
Today’s reading from Isaiah has the key, I think. Of all the enemies, the Kingdom of Judah had, in today’s reading the worst is coming: their own brothers in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. You cannot have a kin-slaying and think God’s going to be happy.
God sends the Prophet Isaiah out to the King of Judah. God says to be courageous. And he closes “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.”
Giving in to the taunts of the world around us does not make us successful in the world or at-peace with the world. The world has no faith at all – not even in itself. The world does not believe in truth and every policy, decision, action, and choice is built only on shifting sand. What holds true today will not be true tomorrow in the world. And woe to the man who holds on to “today’s truth” once tomorrow gets here: he will be called a hater for not keeping up. If you think I’m making this up, even 15 years ago “trans” wasn’t a thing on the gay radar. 30 years ago, I can tell you a trans rights activist was booed off the stage in NYC because of the need to “keep the issue focused”. Same-sex marriage was invented whole cloth in 2008 or so. No one even thought of it before because it was “aping” heterosexuals and who wanted to do that? The agenda changed though – overnight – and it will change again. The same is true of nearly all worldly cultural issues. What gets canceled today is the glorious revolution of tomorrow.
Unless you have a firm faith you will not be firm.
Again, the punchline is in the next set of readings so I will stop there. That’s the answer but not the application.