Bar 1:15-22; Ps 79:1-9; Lk 10:13-16
The unthinkable has happened. The nations have defiled the temple, laid your holy city in ruins, invaded your inheritance, and given the corpses of your servants to the birds of heaven and the beasts of the earth. As the responsorial psalm goes on, we realize the total devastation the Babylonian Exile was for the children of Israel. Among the community of nations they were the reproach of all their neighbors; they were the scorn and derision of all around them. This whole experience was seen as a result of the burning anger of the Lord’s jealous love. They had to be purified to the very core because they had been deeply unfaithful. All they could pray during the exile was, “may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low.” However, the psalm makes another appeal based on the truly painful aspect of this exile. Not only was Israel being punished and corrected by the fiery love of God, but also the name of the Lord was being dragged through the mud as well. Many would look on the history of Israel and not see the glory of God revealed, and this is the very reason for the existence of Israel. The first reading from Baruch makes this confession of sin public as they prayed, “Justice is with the Lord, our God!” The Lord’s “woe” in today’s gospel reveals this same justice. In our own day do we recognize the majesty of God? In our liturgy today do we rejoice in his mercy? As the Wisdom of the Lord reveals, the mercy he shows is equal to his majesty. Saint Francis of Assisi knew and followed the precepts of the Lord, and his heart was full of joy. This boundless joy not only filled his heart; it burst forth to attract many hearts to hear and respond to the Lord Jesus. Saint Francis lived as a radical witness to the joy of gospel living.
If the unthinkable happened in the history of God’s People, it is because they reveled in an unspeakable lifestyle of sin. Evil and the personal and communal surrender to evil called sin cannot exist in the presence of the holy, holy, holy Lord, God, Almighty. From the earliest days of their existence as a people, even while they were being liberated from slavery in Egypt, they were disobedient. All too readily they had only disdain and disregard for the voice of the Lord. They did not heed the voice of the Lord in all the words of the prophets whom He sent them. No, rather, they each went off after the devices of a wicked heart to serve other gods and do evil in the sight of the Lord. Again and again they were warned of the dire consequence of such behavior. Again and again they ignored the voice of correction and kindness. So, the Lord had to reveal the depths of his mercy. Finally, the full consequence of their wickedness could not be ignored. The Lord drove them into exile for their own good. The Lord knew that this suffering was the only remedy for such hardness of heart. Sometimes we come to know the purifying fire of God’s love in suffering we never fully understand or appreciate. Sometimes, too, we grow in faith and pray in our exile, “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame…and with our ancestors have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.”
The jealous love of The Father Almighty comes through in the preaching of His Only Begotten Son. Just like his Father, The Lord Jesus loves stubborn and hard-hearted people. Though he had worked such great signs and wonders in Chorazin and Bethsaida, they would not repent and believe the good news. Indeed, even Tyre and Sidon will be treated with greater mercy. They will be given a greater experience of divine toleration because they did not have the experience of the mighty deeds. Even his home base city, Capernaum, is slammed with the condemnation, “You will go down to the netherworld.” As the Lord Jesus learned from his God and Father, so too, we have much to learn from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, as we have treated the Lord Jesus in our lives so too others will treat us. Still, the sad truth remains. As we are rejected, so too, the Lord Jesus is rejected. As he is rejected, so too, the Father Almighty is rejected. Even more sad is the fact that all this rejection hurts us the most.