Lectio Divina: Matthew 11:20-24
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
Your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow Him
reject what is contrary to the gospel.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 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.”
• The Discourse on the Mission occupies chapter 10. Chapters 11 and 12 describe the mission which Jesus carried out and how He did it. The two chapters mention how the people either adhered to Him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it. John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding Him (Mt 11:1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable of understanding Him (Mt 11:16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw His miracles, did not want to open themselves up to His message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11:20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not able to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11:25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12:1-8) and decided to kill Him (Mt 12:9-14). They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12:22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in Him (Mt 12:38-45). Not even His relatives supported Him (Mt 12:46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11:25-30). They followed Him (Mt 12:15-16) and saw in Him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12:17-21).
• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus and walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse on the mission, because the Gospels were written for all times. They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the people who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11:1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11:16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11:20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11:25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12:1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12:15) and who, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11:25-30).
• Matthew 11:20: The word against the cities which did not receive Him. The space in which Jesus moved during those three years of His missionary life was small; only a few square kilometers along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that! So it was in this very limited space where Jesus made the majority of His discourses and worked His miracles. He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of His land. Tragically, Jesus had to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted. The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and did not accept the invitation of Jesus to change their life.
• Matthew 11:21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23:1; Jer 25:22; 47:4; Ezek 26:3; 27:2; 28:2; Joel 4:4; Am 1:10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida. The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worst perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gen 18:16 to 19:29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist today, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox. Many of us who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that we stop reaching for perfection of charity. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
4) Personal questions
• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Does my city, or my country, deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida?
• If someone, a Christian, already follows Jesus, how does this passage apply? What is the message for them?
5) Concluding Prayer
Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48:1-2)