The Price of Impenitence

Matthew 11:20-24
Isaiah 7:1-9 / Ps 48

And as for you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”
(Matthew 11:23)

Those who don’t know how to listen
Will find it hard to feel remorse;
Read the Word as it is written:
Repentance is our sole recourse.

Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which He had done many of His miracles, because they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! And as for you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” (Matthew 11:20-24)

Reflection

Along the shores of the Sea of Galilee were once found the four beautiful ancient cities of Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Tiberias. Only the city of Tiberias is still existing in the present day. What happened to the other three? In today’s Gospel passage of Matthew, Jesus made the prophecy that a greater tragedy would befall Chorazin and Bethsaida than what happened to Tyre and Sidon, and that Capernaum would suffer a worse fate than the city of Sodom. History records that in AD 400, a massive earthquake destroyed the three cities. Only the city of Tiberias was spared. Our Lord’s prophecy against Capernaum and the two unrepentant cities was thus fulfilled. Significantly, Jesus never uttered a word of judgment against the city of Tiberias. It is still standing today, and flourishing, after nearly two thousand years.

We have enough evidence in the Bible to show that countries and entire civilizations, however great, that did not conform to the Creator’s will, were destroyed, or faded into oblivion. Sodom and Gomorrha, the Babylonian empire, the kingdom of Israel itself (under King David and his son, Solomon), Imperial Rome, and many others, fell apart and disappeared as reminders to mankind that nothing on earth is permanent. More importantly, they all served as signs about the final judgment of mankind, the Armageddon that St. John the evangelist wrote in his book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. In chapter sixteen of Revelation, John wrote about the seven bowls of God’s wrath being poured out upon the unrepentant people on earth. These seven pestilences are starkly reminiscent of the seven plagues that Yahweh God visited upon Egypt in the book of Exodus before the chosen people departed for the promised land. But for His faithful ones, God promised that “no plagues (will) go near your tent.” (Ps 91:10)

The modern “plagues” that are now inflicting people we know (cancer, stroke, liver ailments, emphysema etc.) are reminders that the time for repentance is at hand. In the midst of life’s small disasters we are called to be transformed and to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior – before the 7 golden bowls are poured out and it becomes too late.

Thank You, dear God for making us realize the damnation we would face without repentance. May the most precious blood of Jesus wash away all our sins so that we may be found ready and worthy upon the return of our most loving Savior. Amen.

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