Tuesday: Fifteenth Week of the Year: July 12, 2016
Year II: Isaiah 7:1-9; Psalm 48:2-8; Matthew 11:20-24
The Responsorial Psalm calls us to trust that God will achieve what is humanly impossible: “God upholds his city forever” (Psalm 48).
In Isaiah 7: 1-9 the “bottom line” is, “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!”
It is hard to win people through ministry to seek “life to the full.” People are inclined by culture and perhaps by human nature itself to settle for less: to settle for a religion than makes them feel adequately secure in an adequately good relationship with God. Why break out of bounds to do more than we have to? Why seek “perfection” if just keeping the commandments is enough to be “saved”? (Matthew 19: 16-26). Why go to Mass every day if we only have to go once a week? Why read the Scriptures if no Church law says we have to? Why make retreats, attend parish missions or join discussion groups? Why read more about religion when we have completed the religious education classes required for First Communion and Confirmation? Why seek the “more” when enough is enough?
Isaiah prophesies victory against hopeless odds. But the real battle is:
not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12).
In our ministry against these forces we need to believe with the same faith and hope Isaiah demanded of Ahaz, “God upholds his city forever.” “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm” in urging yourself and others to seek “life to the full.”
In Matthew 11: 20-24 Jesus calls the complacent to conversion. He says it will be worse for the “good” people who have the true religion given by God himself than for the non-Jews of Tyre and Sidon who did not know God’s word. Worse even than it will be for the unspeakably corrupt people of Sodom! (Genesis 13:13, 19: 1-25).
Woe to you, Chorazin…. Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes…. I assure you, it will go easier for Sodom than for you on the day of judgment!
Why? It was because they settled for the “good” instead of accepting the “more” that Jesus offered, and so rejected Jesus himself. Their complacency in the good blocked them from the best.
Who rejected Jesus? The Pharisees, who were the model “law observers,” and “the chief priests and the elders of the people” — those who were just good enough to think they were good enough. Who accepted Jesus? The “tax collectors and the prostitutes” who knew they ”didn’t have it made” (Matthew 21:23-32). Those who reject “life to the full” will be left in the living death of stagnation.
Sometimes the hardest people to minister to are the ones who sin the least! At least according to the “going standards” of what sin is. For Jesus there is only one standard: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart.” And your neighbor as he himself does.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Never despair of urging people to the “more.”