Horrors not Honours- Friday, 26th week in ordinary time – Lk 10:13-16
The Gospel passage of today stands smack in between the sending out of the seventy into mission and the return of the seventy from mission. It almost seems like an interlude of sorts to create the impression that a certain time has lapsed between the two events.
The passage in Luke is also found in the Gospel of Matthew (11:20-24) and draws attention to three predominantly Jewish cities in Galilee. The first two of the three Jewish cities mentioned are Chorazin and Bethsaida; towns situated near the Sea of Galilee and which today lie in ruin. However a good portion of the synagogue of Chorazin is still standing. The third Jewish city of Capernaum which is mentioned by Jesus in the text is the place that Jesus made his own headquarters for ministry. The cities of Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities in Phoenicia which were doomed by the prophets, Isaiah and Ezekiel. The Galilean cities and the Gentile cities had a long standing feud and the very mention of the two in the same breath was enough to start a riot.
Ironically, Jesus pronounces a woe against the Galilean cities, followed by an explanation for the word of doom and then a comparison is made with a Gentile city. So what has got Jesus so riled up? The seventy who were sent out in mission were warned that there would be towns (9:10) that would not welcome them. In the face of such hostility, the disciples were to shake the dust off their sandals ‘as a sign of protest against the town’ (9:11). Jesus knew that his disciples would face rejection; He knew that the message of the kingdom would be mocked at and He knew this because of His own experience.
Jesus had not just cured some cough or cold as some faith healers of his time had perhaps done in these cities. To quote the Lord himself, he had worked “deeds of power” in the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Ironically the response from these Jewish cities was lukewarm. The point of working these deeds of power was to provoke national conversion but because the people rejected the message of the kingdom the ground for tragedy is laid. Towns that were sworn enemies of the Jews are now portrayed as being more receptive to the message of Jesus, more receptive to conversion and repentance. Destruction awaits those who think that honours are due to them.
The disciples are now given the mandate to speak not just in their name but in the very name of Jesus and by extension in the name of God the Father; for the message though delivered by a human agent has a divine source. The rejection of such a message was not just a rejection of the disciple who is but a human agent but a rejection of the very voice and message of God.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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