Woe to You

Two cities come in for criticism from Jesus in today's reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew: Chorazin and Capernaum. The first was reputed as a city of learning, schooled in the understanding of the Scriptures. The second was the city to which Jesus moved after leaving Nazareth, his adopted "hometown." Chorazin is likened to the cities of Tyre and Sidon. These two Gentile cities were also seats of learning and commerce. To compare a Jewish city to a Gentile city and find it wanting was an extreme insult. Capernaum fares even worse. It is likened to Sodom, guilty of great immorality and destroyed in the Book of Genesis.

Chorazin and Capernaum have had an advantage over the other cities in that they have seen the wonders Jesus has worked and heard the words which he has preached but have failed to turn away from their sins. They have failed to repent.

Once again, we need to remember that the people of the Middle East did not think of themselves as individuals so much as a member of a group, a family, a community. In speaking of the city, Jesus speaks of them. They would have understood that Jesus is condemning them by referencing the cities in which they dwell.

Much has been written, and much has been preached about the sins of our society, of our culture. However, we must not hide behind our individuality. If the city has failed to hear the Gospel, then we have failed to proclaim it. If the culture still refuses to turn away from its sins against justice and peace, then we have failed to be just and peaceful. If the our society has failed to enact just laws and mete out justice to the poor, then we have failed to elect good leaders and to care for the poor. As the old saying goes, when we point a finger at someone else, there are three pointed back at ourselves.

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