Fr. Roger J. Landry
Mother of God Convent, New Bedford, MA
Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth
Tuesday of the 15th Week of OT, Year I
July 13, 1999;
Ex 2:1-15; Mt 11:20-24
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus extraordinarily frustrated with the hardness of the hearts of men and women around him. There are a series of times in the Gospel when we see this. We see it with the moneychangers in the temple, who were trying to make pecuniary profit off of worshippers basic sacrificial needs. We see it when he castigates the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem for their manifold hypocrisy. Whitewashed sepulchers he calls them, full of filth and dead bones within. But these were, in a certain sense, relatively easy or familiar targets for Jesus. In the Gospel, we see him doing so to the people who had faith in him, who had the faith such that he could perform miracle upon miracle. Bethsaida was birthplace to five apostles after all: Philip, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Capernaum became their business place. Unlike his hometown of Nazareth, which had no faith in the mere “son of Joseph the Carpenter,” Jesus worked countless miracles in this region on the north side of the sea of Gailee, because there was faith there.
But as we read in the Gospel, faith in Jesus’ miracle making ability, faith in Jesus’ holiness and mission, was not enough. Jesus wanted more. He wanted the people there to repent. He wanted them to look upon him truly, as their divine Savior, not as some local wonderworker of whom they could be proud and brag. But that’s what he had become.
And he threatened them with eternal punishments worse than any village on earth at the time and even greater than the cities that had received the greatest castigations in history — Tyre, Sidon and Sodom. You remember Sodom. Abraham interceded with God to stay the city’s execution provided that just ten just people would be able to be found there. But as we read later in the book of Genesis, when two angels of the Lord came to Lots house, the men of the town, rather than welcoming them, came to try to use and abuse them for their own sick pleasure. By saying to the people of Capernaum that their punishment would be worse than Sodom, Jesus was implying that they had not truly welcomed him either — by receiving his message and mission in their hearts — but were trying to use him for their own whims, to make him a means to their own pleasure, rather than consider him the End of all things. Jesus did not come to be a famous magician, but a savior. Miracles were meant to bring about conversion.
Unlike those of Capernaum and environs, we have not seen the centurion’s son cured by Jesus’ mere word, a fish appear with a coin in its mouth at Jesus’, a widow’s son on a bier risen from the dead, a paralytic’s sins and physical maladies removed, or several other miracles. But we have been given so much more — the ability to literally consume the Lord each day, to become united to the Lord in Holy Communion, the great consummation of the wedding celebration of the Divine Bridegroom and each of the members of his Spouse, the Church. Such a constant, unbelievable miracle we should never take for granted, like the citizens on the northern lip of the sea of Galilee. Such a wonder should bring us to our knees, first in supplication, because none of us is worthy to receive his or her Creator and Redeemer; and secondly, in adoration and love, that this Redeemer, provided that we are contrite for all those times we have not loved him as we ought, will make us worthy. In the words of the Roman Centurion in Capernaum, “Lord, we are not truly to have you come under our roofs, into our mouths, but only say the word and we shall be healed.” Today let us ask the Lord to say that word and heal us, to convince us ever more of our true state, that we’re sinners, yes, in need of repentance, but sinners whom Jesus loved so much that he considered a bargain to die for us rather than to live forever without us. And his body and blood lead each of us to everlasting life!