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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
Today’s reading follows on from the account we heard yesterday of the sending out of the seventy others to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ far and wide. In yesterday’s reflection I concluded with the warning that it is not for us to judge those who reject the word of God, rather that task of final judgement is the prerogative of God alone. Today we hear words that hammer this message home.
During his earthly life Jesus worked miraculous signs and healed many of seemingly incurable diseases. But, despite all this, his revolutionary message that demanded a change in heart and a change in religious practice was rejected. That rejection, as we know, led to his brutal and unjust execution. The order to crucify Jesus was delivered by Pilate, a Roman official, as he sat on the seat of judgement. This detail, which is recorded in John’s gospel, highlights just how wrong we can be when we sit on that ‘seat of judgement’ in respect of the actions and words of others.
We all do it, of course. We all have our own opinions on what other people say and do. We tolerate the ‘eccentricities’ of some, whilst totally rejecting and condemning others. We watch our televisions, listen to news broadcasts and read our newspapers, and then we pass judgement on what we have seen, heard or read. We all believe we know better. Sadly, we take that same attitude into every corner of our lives. The neighbour who fails to make their garden look as ‘smart’ as ours is judged and condemned. The person whose ‘truth’ differs from ours is judged and condemned. The person who needs charitable help because of misfortune or unseen disability is judged and condemned. The person who likes their church to adopt a particular form of worship that differs from our own preferences is judged and condemned. We all judge and condemn. We all align ourselves with Pilate sitting on that seat of judgement in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. We all struggle to follow the truly Christian way: the way of love, forgiveness and tolerance.
Let us pray that we might engage with others in an open and generous way. Let us pray that we might set aside the need to judge and condemn. Let us pray that we might be truly Christ-like in all we say and think and do. And, where there is rejection, let us pray that we might leave the role of judge to God alone.