For what I have failed to do – Tuesday, 15th week in ordinary time – Matthew 11:20-24

Having completed the mission discourse, Jesus sets out to do what he came to do; “to teach and proclaim his message in their cities” (11:1). The lectionary omits verses 2-19 concerning John the Baptist. These texts will find their way in the liturgy of the Church several times in Advent and around the feast concerning John the Baptist.

Principally, chapters eleven and twelve will cover the rejection of Our Lord and are referred to as the rejection passages. Verses 16-19, which precede this text, gives us a clear understanding of the rejection that Jesus faced. Nothing He does seems to make the people happy. They won’t dance when the flute is played, they won’t mourn when the dirge is sung. For that matter, the life of John the Baptist was too austere for them and the life of Jesus was too debaucherous. It seemed like they wanted an omelet but did not want to break the eggs.

Jesus responds to this indifference towards him and to his mission and having confronted their behaviour (verse 16-19) he now decides to shake a fist at them. Clearly, the Gospel tells us that these three cities were not places where he worked some random miracle or gave some small time village religious teaching. Our Lord had put his heart and soul into bringing them the words of salvation and the acts of divine grace. We are told, “most of his deeds of power had been done here.” It is for this reason that he reproaches them

But what had Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum done? It’s not so much what they have done but rather what they failed to do. To them had the Gospel been preached vigorously. Capernaum was the Lord’s de facto headquarters in the region of Galilee. More than two thirds of the miracle of Jesus had been worked around the lake of Galilee where these cities were situated. They should have become cities of holiness and faith; light to the Gentiles who had outnumbered them in this region. Yet the ministry of Jesus had no effect on them personally.

What is it that Jesus wanted from them as a sign of acceptance of his ministry? He wanted them to repent. He says to them that if his words and deeds were preached in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. We know that these cities were known for their immorality and lust. If immoral cities could respond in repentance, then why were the cities that our Lord preached to, so indifferent to putting on a new heart and mind?

I guess the answer to that question lies in the actions of each of us. Have I repented or do I take the love of the Lord for granted?

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