The harshest words

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!” (Mt 11:20)

The opposition to Jesus’ ministry is beginning to grow. People are pushing back, asking for more signs, accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan, holding back refusing to believe, and all manner of other things. The division Jesus spoke about in yesterday’s gospel are becoming clear and present. In the midst of these encounters comes the ominous words: woe to you.There are two ways “woe to you” can be understood – both of which contain the warning that sin and rejection of Jesus has eternal consequences. In one way, think of the evangelical preacher calling down eternal damnation in all its fiery spectacle, his thunderous voice harshly crying out, “Woe to you…”  Frightening to say the least. In another way, one recognizes that “woe” is a biblical cry of lament, sorrow, and disappointment. Think of the same preacher, voice replete with a plaintiff sorrow, in that he feels he has failed in his mission and the consequences for the listener are horrific. The words are no less harsh in their consequences.

And if we know the one speaking them only wants the best for us, the lament of woe can cut as deep, feel as harsh.

We are people called to remember the mighty deeds done for our ancestors in the faith. We are people called to bring the stories of those mighty deeds and saving words to people of our times. We are people who perhaps will be required to speak the harshest words – however delivered – to those we love.

Woe unto us if we fail to speak the words of the Kingdom of God.

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