Not Taking Christ’s Mercy for Granted, 15th Tuesday (II), July 12, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
July 12, 2016
Is 7:1-9, Ps 48, Mt 11:20-24


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Yesterday we finished a week-long examination of the instructions Jesus gave to the Twelve before he sent them out and we mentioned as an aside that after he had “finished giving these commands to his twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.” Jesus himself went out to preach and to practice what he had preached to the Twelve. He went out to announce that the kingdom of God was at hand and therefore it was essential to repent and believe. He went out to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons. He went out without  gold or silver or copper for his belt, with no sack for the journey, no second tunic, sandals, walking stick. He went out as a Lamb among wolves, as wise as a serpent and as pure as a dove, wishing peace upon all those who met him. And as we pondered yesterday, what he looking for above all was welcome. He was seeking those who could welcome him and in welcoming him welcome God the Father and the whole salvific mission. But he also had warned the Twelve that they, like him, would encounter those who were hardened and unwelcoming, who would respond, as our Psalm says, with hardened hearts to the voice of the Lord.
  • Today Jesus preaches about three different places — Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum — that ultimately were unwelcoming to Jesus. On the surface, these were places that very much seemed to embrace Jesus. Capernaum during his public ministry was actually called his “home town,” his home base after departing from Nazareth. They were the cities where Jesus, according to St. Matthew, had worked “most of his mighty deeds.” Jesus had called his apostles from these towns, he had preached in these squares and synagogues, he had cast out demons, healed countless sick people, fed two multitudes with a few buns and sardines and yet, even though many were bringing him friends on stretchers and the whole town would be gathered at the door of the house where he was, they still hadn’t really welcomed him. The reason is because they had given welcome only to those parts of what Jesus was doing that had fit into their own categories. They weren’t really welcoming his message and mission. They weren’t really open to change. They had heard his words calling them to conversion, to a new way of life, to follow Jesus in big things and in small, and they responded not with open hearts but hardened ones.
  • That’s why Jesus today reproaches the towns for their lack of faith, comparing them negatively to Tyre and Sidon, the debauched metropolises of Phoenicia north of the Holy Land, and to Sodom, one the most notoriously sinful and unwelcoming cities in history, there the residents literally tried to “sodomize” the messengers sent by God to Lot’s house. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!,” Jesus said. “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. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” The word “woe” is not so much a word of anger but of crushed disappointment. It’s if he was saying, “What a tragedy, Chorazin and Bethsaida! What an absolute pity, Capernaum!”  Jesus had come to save them, and his deeds were physical manifestations of greater miracles he wanted to work in their souls, but they didn’t want to cooperate, they didn’t want want to change, they didn’t want to repent and believe.  He likewise said about Capernaum, “Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the nether world. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Jesus had done so much there and yet the people were fundamentally unchanged. They just went on with their unredeemed life as normal.
  • It’s somewhat tempting for us to lament what happened in these towns along the Sea of Galilee, but we need to recognize that Jesus has done far greater deeds in New York than he ever did in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida. What he did there was a just a taste of what he has done here. He teaches every day. He gives us in the Eucharist a far greater miracle than the multiple of the loaves and fish. He gives us in the Sacrament of Confession a much greater healing that the physical cures he worked there, as he not only exorcises the devil’s clutches from our souls but fills us with himself. But at the end of time will he praise us as a city of faith or will he say we haven’t repented and believed? We will say to each of us, “Woe” or will he say, “You welcomed me”? Today Jesus wants us to learn from what happened in these towns of Galilee and get right again what they got wrong. He wants us to embrace him and his message, to repent and believe in the Gospel, to begin to follow him from darkness into the light, to commence living in his kingdom, living a new life. He’s hoping not that we merely respond with what the Church calls “imperfect contrition,” out of a fear that unless we change our judgment will be fiercer than that for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom because to whom more is given more is to be expected. Rather, he’s hoping that we respond with “perfect contrition,” a repentance due to love, by recognizing his crushed disappointment when we don’t respond to what he’s doing and make up for lost time. This extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an occasion for us to respond to his gift of mercy and begin to align our whole lives with the new chance Jesus gives us to become truly holy.
  • In today’s first reading, we have an example of what God doesn’t want to happen in us. God sends the Prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz of Judah. Jerusalem was under attack by Aram and Israel and “the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled.” Aram and Israel wanted Judah to join them in an alliance against Assyria, but Ahaz instead wanted to seek the protection of Assyria against the two other nations. Isaiah was given by God the mission to go to Ahaz and tell him and all the people of Judah to “remain tranquil and do not fear,” that the plans to overtake Jerusalem “shall not stand, it shall not be!” He urged him to neither to join Aram and Israel or to enter into alliance with Assyria. God stressed through his prophet, “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!” The source of lasting courage in earthly circumstances comes from being in right relationship with God, trusting that God is present and to obey what he says. But Ahaz’s faith was not firm. He didn’t trust in the Lord enough to do what Isaiah was commanding in the Lord’s name. Ahaz formed an alliance with Assyria, which worked to rout Aram and Israel, but then eventually brought the Kingdom of Judah down, making it vassals of Assyria, Ahaz needed to go to the capital of Assyria to swear allegiance to the King of Assyria and his gods, and eventually the Kingdom of Judah would likewise be destroyed because of its association with Assyria. The message for us is that unless our faith is firm we will not remain stable, but Jesus wants to give us that type of firm faith, faith to act on his words, faith to repent, faith to live not with a hardened heart to God’s word but a prompt, obedient and self-giving heart.
  • The greatest gift of all that Jesus gives we have a chance to receive each day. Jesus not only visits our city, but enters into each one of us. This is something that all those who lived in ancient Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, ancient Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, would marvel at, but it is God’s gift to us out of his merciful love so that we may be strong in faith and help others learn how to become strong in faith. As we prepare to receive him now, we ask him for the grace to respond to his miracles with repentance, so that we can relieve his “woe” and have him measure out to us one day what we’ve measured out to him, a full welcome into the heavenly Jerusalem!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 IS 7:1-9

In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah,
Rezin, king of Aram,
and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah,
went up to attack Jerusalem,
but they were not able to conquer it.
When word came to the house of David that Aram
was encamped in Ephraim,
the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled,
as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz,
you and your son Shear-jashub,
at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,
on the highway of the fuller’s field, and say to him:
Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,
because of the mischief that
Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah,
plots against you, saying,
“Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force,
and appoint the son of Tabeel king there.”Thus says the LORD:
This shall not stand, it shall not be!
Damascus is the capital of Aram,
and Rezin is the head of Damascus;
Samaria is the capital of Ephraim,
and Remaliah’s son the head of Samaria.But within sixty years and five,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!

Responsorial Psalm PS 48:2-3A, 3B-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (see 9d) God upholds his city for ever.
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Mount Zion, “the recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
For lo! the kings assemble,
they come on together;
They also see, and at once are stunned,
terrified, routed.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.
R. God upholds his city for ever.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“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.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”


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