2- Reading and understanding the Gospel: Jesus denounces the Lake Towns (Mt 11:20-24)
The Father reveals His secrets to little children (Mt 11:25-30)
20Then he began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. 21 “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. 23And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. 24And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgment day as with you.”
25At that time Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. 27Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls! 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light”
2. 1- Explanation
These two successive passages from Matthew’s Gospel speak first of a grim picture for those who refuse to accept the message of Jesus and refuse to repent (Mt 11:20- 24), and a positive image of the revelation reserved by the Father for the simple and those wearied by the weight of their burdens (Mt 11:25-30).
The first passage (Mt 11:20-24) speaks of the bitter reality of the towns on Lake Tiberias whose inhabitants rejected the message of Christ. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 4:23-25), we learn that Jesus preached in Galilee and that his fame spread across the country to such an extent that large crowds followed him. However, Jesus denounced his contemporaries for refusing him and for rejecting the message of John the Baptist, because they reckoned that John the Baptist was too austere in his life of abstinence and sacrifice, and deplored the fact that Jesus dined with sinners and tax collectors (Mt 11:16-19). In this context, the image is now clear: the towns of the lake did not repent despite the many miracles they had witnessed. Jesus is unusually harsh in his denunciation of the inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, threatening them with Hell and eternal damnation. The goal of the miracles was to encourage repentance in the inhabitants of the three towns and offer them eternal life, but because of their refusal, they will be subject to harsh punishment. Note, however, that Jesus does give them a second chance and, in his great mercy, visits Capernaum and the Lake Tiberias towns again (Mt 14:14; Mt 17:24). The door to repentance is always open to believers.
The second passage (Mt 11:25-30) sets out a prayer and an invitation. The prayer of Jesus is an action of grace addressed to the Father. God, in fact, reveals His will to the little ones. Jesus is the Son of God and the only true revealer of his Father’s will. He entrusted the Church with the task of continuing after him to proclaim God’s love to humanity. The one who discovers, through the teaching of Jesus and the Church, the Father’s will and puts it into practice, will enter into the category of the simple little ones who can praise God, like the children who waved branches and cried Hosanna!, of whom it is said: “From the mouths of children, babes in arms, you have made sure of praise” (Mt 21:16). On the other hand, the wise and the clever are all those who know the Holy Scriptures and teach them to others, without putting them into practice, because they have made their traditions an add-on to the spirit of the Law, changing it into a very heavy yoke. Therefore, Jesus invites, in the second part (11:28-30), all those who struggle under the weight of the added laws, to take upon themselves his own yoke, that is, its easy and light teaching. It should not be believed that the teaching of Jesus is actually easier than that of the Pharisees; but if we want to live God’s will, we will not resort to hypocrisy and deceit, and will thus lead a simpler life, without pride and without feeling superior to others. Indeed, our weariness is caused by the weight of masks that hide the truth of the real person.
2. 2- Summary and Practice
Let us open our hearts to see the action of God in our life and in the world. The problem of Man is that he often forgets the frequent interventions of God in his life. The one who knows that God is present and active must convert, turn back towards God, while confessing his sins and harmonizing his life and his words. On the path towards baptism, let us seriously reflect on the theme of repentance; let us become engaged in the process of changing our hearts and minds and respond with renewed faith to the revelation of God’s love which we have experienced.
Jesus teaches us to praise the Father for His gifts and grace. Our prayer is not only about pleas and demands but is primarily focused on thanksgiving and worshipping God. Indeed, he who knows to give thanks to Him, will receive more and more blessings and graces!
Jesus, gentle and humble in heart, invites us to be like him. His humility made him become the Suffering Servant of God “He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smouldering wick” (Mt 12:20). One who humbles himself as Jesus did will be raised up; and he who welcomes the Kingdom like a child will be considered great in Heaven. The fact that we are doing our simple and small daily duties will help us to arrive at holiness. It is thus that the path of perfection was understood by St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, teaching us by her example “spiritual childhood”.