Jesus harshly rebukes several unrepentant cities. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by seeking the Gift of the Fear of the Lord from the Holy Spirit so he can heed Jesus’ warnings against Hell and repent and by building the Virtue of Fortitude so he can reject spiritual lukewarmness and aspire to Sainthood. 

Liturgy

15th Week in Ordinary Time – Tuesday – Mt 11:20-24

Commentary

Following the missionary instruction of the disciples and praise of John the Baptist, Jesus upbraids (Greek: oneidizó, meaning, a harsh, angry rebuke that brings disgrace and shame) a number of specific towns in Galilee because of their unwillingness to receive His Gospel, pronouncing the doom of eternal destruction upon them (“Woe to you…”). Despite His astounding preaching and miracles, many failed to repent and grow in faith. Jesus, by His shocking condemnation, mercifully offers the rebellious men the opportunity to repent while there is still time. 

Jesus begins by harshly rebuking and shaming Chorazin and Bethsaida, two towns within a few hours walk from where He performed many “mighty deeds.” Because these towns remain unrepentant and unwilling to accept Him, Jesus expresses anger, sorrow, and condemnation (“Woe!”) at their lukewarmness and acceptance of sin. Chorazin and Bethsaida were predominately Jewish towns so their rejection of the Messiah brought great guilt and judgment; Jesus ominously warns that these Jewish towns will fare even worse in the Judgment than the Gentile towns of Tyre and Sidon, towns which God had previously promised to bring down judgment and violent destruction upon (Is 23:1-17; Jer 25:22). 

Jesus has an even stronger rebuke for the city of Capernaum, the town where He based His Galilean mission and spent much time preaching and performing mighty deeds. Earlier (Mt 10:15), Jesus had revealed to the disciples that those towns that did not receive the disciples’ proclamation of His Gospel would suffer a fate worse then Sodom and Gomorrah, towns God destroyed with fire and brimstone due to broad acceptance and rampant practice of homosexual acts; consistent with His earlier warning of the destruction of those who reject Him, Jesus confirms that Capernaum will be cast into Hell and suffer a destruction worse than the total obliteration of Sodom.

Be awed by Jesus Christ

Consider, with holy fear, Jesus, the perfection of Justice, as He condemns those who do not repent: demonstrating just Anger, Jesus speaks Harshly to bring Shame (oneidizó); with Vindication (a part of Justice that requires rewards and punishments), Jesus, the Divine Judge, severely Condemns the unrepentant towns, pronouncing His verdict that those who do not repent will be destroyed (an allusion to Hell) with a worse destruction than the completely obliterated Sodom.

Heed Jesus’ warnings about Hell and repent

Realize: Jesus harshly condemned the Jewish towns that, despite having the blessing of being among the chosen of Israel, failed to repent and fully give themselves to Him; every Catholic man must heed the dire warnings of Jesus about lukewarmness and Hell, and give themselves more fully to Him by fervently repenting from sin and taking real steps to love Him and neighbor.

Believe: Reflect upon the Acts of the Penitent (CCC 1450-1460).

Pray: Holy Spirit, help me to take seriously Jesus warnings about Hell and give me the Gift of the Fear of the Lord so I fear disappointing  and being separated from Him, I zealously embrace the Acts of the Penitent and I frequently seek forgiveness and happiness in the life-saving Sacrament of Penance. 

Reject mediocrity and aspire to Sainthood

Realize: Going beyond being satisfied with a mediocre faith life, every Catholic man is called to set his sights on sainthood and heroically strive for holiness in daily life. 

Believe: Reflect upon The Precepts (CCC 2041-2043).

Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Fortitude so I go far beyond the minimum requirements of The Precepts, I set my sights on sainthood, and I heroically persevere to give my absolute best to Jesus today and every day.