Then he 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 netherworld. 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.”( Matthew 11:20-24)
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.
But 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 him in big things and in small, to love him more than they loved their parents or children or even life, and they responded not with open hearts but hardened ones.
There is some of us in that.
Too often, we use our ears to listen rather than our hearts. Our ears are made to filter out harmful bacteria. But our minds often use them to hear only what we want to hear.
But loving God and being open to His presence in our lives means that we yield our hearts to Him. That is where the awesome power of God begins.
When you and I look at our lives, we see many things we would like to change. We would like to believe more deeply, forgive more easily, love with fewer conditions. But when we try to move in that positive direction, we often fall short. Despite our best intentions and honest efforts, we remain stuck in our flaw. This is why it is crucial for us to believe that God can change us, that God is able to alter the terms of our relationship, that God can make us new.
We believe in God, but when it comes to changing ourselves, we try to do it ourselves. We think that our strategy and efforts can break a habit of sin or make us more generous people. But that is seldom the case. What we need is not different plans or more willpower. What we need is a new relationship. The good news is that that is exactly what God wants to give us.
We enter into that new relationship when we entrust ourselves to God, when we admit our weakness and inability to change, and ask God to transform us. When we say Lord, “I have been so hurt by that person that I cannot bend to forgive. I need you to bend me, so that I can let go of this hate. Lord, I have put such high expectations on my spouse and my children, that they are harming my relationships. I need you to loosen my expectations, so I can love the people in my life as they are, rather than how I want them to be. Lord, I am so quick to judge others because of their race, sexual orientation, or political viewpoint, and that fills me with anger. Lord, I need you to quiet those prejudices, so that I can live in peace again.”
When we are helpless and hopeless, God promises to change us. God promises to write, in a new way, on our hearts. Now, then, is the time to open our hearts, and let God in, so that we can become the people we are called to be.
Prayer of The Day
“Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us a true faith, a certain hope and a perfect love. Give us a sense of the divine and knowledge of yourself, so that we may do everything in fulfillment of your holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226)
God believes that there is a goodness in us. God believes that with the right amount of time that goodness can emerge and we see that the sins that we cling to do not belong in our hands. God is waiting, waiting for us to see. God is doodling, providing the time by which we can recognize that the sins that we cling to only lessen our lives. The time that God gives us is a sign of the trust that God has in us. So, should not today be the day that we trust God in return? Should not today be the day we walk away from anger and sin so that we can enter into the new life that only God’s grace can give?