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“Whoever listens to you, listens to me!”

  • International
  • October 5, 2012
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This brief Gospel passage is not a beatitude, but a curse. The curse is meant to befall all those who have rejected the proclamation of the ‘Good News’ in spite of the miracles which supported this proclamation.

From the start of his public ministry, Jesus announced the imminence of ‘the reign of God’, that state of righteous living which brings in its wake peace, prosperity and good health for all. In fact the healings Jesus performed were always linked to this right relationship between men and women, and between them and God. The body in good health was the visible sign of the soul in a right relationship. This was truly the ‘messianic age’ foretold by the prophets, and longed for by the common people.

Jesus proclaimed this reign of God himself. He also commissioned his twelve apostles to do so. Even more, he sent off seventy-two disciples with the same commission: “The reign of God has come into your midst! Receive it, change your lives!” It was important that the crowds should listen not just to Jesus, but also to his disciples, the men he had empowered.

But not every place received the proclamation with attentiveness. People may beg for healing, but what they usually want is relief, not cures. No one wants to change one’s way of life – to “repent”, as the Gospel puts it. The small towns of Galilee – Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida – where Jesus had worked his greatest miracles were the slowest to change. As often happens, Jesus and his disciples were taken for granted. Miracles, yes. Change of life? No, certainly not.

This is why Jesus calls down curses and imprecations on the places he had traversed again and again, contrasting the obstinacy of his Jewish countrymen to the repentance which pagan cities had shown in similar circumstances.

His curses echo the constant refrain in the Gospels: “He came to his own, and his own received him not.”
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