An Easy Company infantry veteran describes how he learned how essential listening is. His drill instructor warned that listening is a matter of life and death. The recruits were distracted by a plane flying overhead as the commander spoke. Two paratroopers jumped out, and all watched in horror as one parachute failed to open. That jumper hit the ground at over 100 mph—blood and guts splattered everywhere. Then the drill instructor told the shocked onlookers to relax; it had only been a dummy; and a lesson that all dummies must listen.
Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin are the recipients of Jesus' woe-bitude today. Like these recruits, they failed to pay attention as Jesus performed mighty deeds, which were supposed to be a matter of life and death for them. "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would long ago have repented…." Jesus has a good grasp of history. He made sure that people listened to what happened in the past so that they may not make the same mistake.
All three places, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, were objects of Jesus' active ministry where He did His proverbial wonders. Pope Francis, in one of his reflections, says that these towns were indifferent to the mighty deeds of the Lord and paid little attention because they wanted salvation—but on their own terms. He envisions the three crying out, "Save us, Lord, but do it our way." Imagine a paratrooper saying, "I will jump out of the plane as you say, but I'll do it my way." The final result won't be pretty.
The frustration, and the disappointment, probably tinged with anger, that's what Jesus experienced with these three towns. The Lord had every right to express His feelings, not to harass His listeners, as to drive home an important lesson about listening to him, about acceptance and its opposite—rejection. Scientists tell us that even baboons find themselves at the bottom of their social ladder when they don't listen or follow orders; they can't function well when they're at the bottom of the baboon social ladder. The rejected get more stressed since they have to work harder for food and strive harder for everything that the higher rungs take for granted.
The same could be true for human beings. Whenever we are disconnected and disengaged from the mainstream, from our history, our inner machinery, including empathy, rational thinking, and other capacities, does not work as it should.Jesus continues to invite his followers to listen to him. Our eyes do not need to be opened by bad things that happen to us. We do not need to experience hell before choosing heaven.
Is it possible that we fail to listen to the movement of grace? Usually, God uses ordinary and unspectacular ways, especially through people He sends to us along the way. It might take the form of unexpected kindness that someone shows to us, an invitation we receive that we had not expected, a word of appreciation or support at a time when it was needed, or a positive and willing response to a call that we make on someone.
Our challenge today is to acknowledge and listen to these moments as the Lord's mighty deeds in our life.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.