Woe to those...
Tuesday of Week 15 per annum
Our Lord’s condemnation of the unrepentant cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida couldn’t be more striking nor perhaps more surprising.
Chorazin and Bethsaida seem to be towns where our Lord preached the Gospel and performed miracles, yet the people there did not repent. Sodom and Gomorrah were towns known for their grave depravity, sin and iniquity. We read of their destruction in Genesis 18. Yet our Lord seems to think that it would be worse for Chorazin and Bethsaida on the Day of Judgement than for Sodom and Gomorrah. Surely their sin was merely to fail to respond to Jesus, can that really be worse than all that grave sin and iniquity?
Well our Lord’s answer is ‘yes’ – and this we might think surprising. We tend to think of the worst sins being to do with things we do. In fact the worst sins are to do with how we fail God in some way.
St Thomas Aquinas when talking about the Ten Commandments of Moses reminds us that the commandments are in order of gravity. Disobeying the first commandments are worse than disobeying the later ones. The first sins are to do with God: not worshipping other gods, not misusing the name of God, and keeping the Sabbath day holy. These commandments which are all about how we love God, are graver than for example murder, adultery, telling lies, etc. Don’t we find that difficult to accept ? If we were to write the commandments in our own order of importance I think some of the commandments that occur higher up in the list would, for us, come later. We of course do not think as God thinks! We forget that our relationship with God is foundational to our lives and if we don’t get that right then it doesn’t really matter how virtuous we are in other respects.
Chorazin and Bethsaida did not respond to the grace of Christ when it was presented to them. They heard the preaching of Christ firsthand, they witnessed miraculous signs at His hands, they did not repent. This was the greatest folly of all! But we must ask ourselves whether we have sometimes done the same thing? Have we not failed to respond to the grace of Christ soemtimes? Have we not heard His gospel over and over again – have we come to full repentance? Have we not witnessed the miracle of the Eucharist – how often have we taken it for granted or approached casually?
As members of the Church we have many opportunities for grace – let us remember that one day we shall be judged by how we responded, just as the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida will be judged.