Baruch said to the people,
"The Lord our God is in the right, but there is shame on us today, on the people of Judah, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on our kings, our rulers, our priests, our prophets, and our ancestors, because we have sinned before the Lord. We have disobeyed him, and have not heeded the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in the statutes of the Lord that he set before us. From the time when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today, we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, and we have been negligent, in not heeding his voice. So to this day there have clung to us the calamities and the curse that the Lord declared through his servant Moses at the time when he brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt to give to us a land flowing with milk and honey. We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God in all the words of the prophets whom he sent to us, but all of us followed the intent of our own wicked hearts by serving other gods and doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord our God."
O God, the nations have invaded your land,
they have profaned your holy temple.
They have made Jerusalem a heap of ruins.
They have handed over the bodies of your servants
as food to feed the birds of heaven
and the flesh of your faithful
to the beasts of the earth. (R./)
They have poured out blood like water in Jerusalem,
leaving no one to bury the dead.
We have become the taunt of our neighbours,
the mockery and scorn of those who surround us.
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry for ever,
how long will your anger burn like fire? (R./)
Do not hold the guilt of our fathers against us.
Let your compassion hasten to meet us
for we are in the depths of distress. (R./)
O God our saviour, come to our help,
come for the sake of the glory of your name.
O Lord our God, forgive us our sins;
rescue us for the sake of your name. (R./)
Jesus said to the people,
"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 judgment 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."
The prophecy of Baruch dates from the Babylonian exile (587-539 B.C.), and its context was the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. A collection was being made, to send to Jerusalem for offering sacrifices and feed the poor in the holy city. The feast of Tabernacles (i.e. tents) was originally a thanksgiving festival for the harvest. But during the exile and in the post-exilic period, there was a glaring contrast between the joyful ritual and the harsh reality of their life. Then the people's joy was tinged with such sadness that they needed to be told, "Do not be saddened -- for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength" (Neh 8:9-10). Our plight is our own fault, says Baruch. We should blush with shame, for we have been disobedient. Yet the merciful God of the Exodus is still with us today. We just need to repent and reform our ways and, most of all, have hope.
Sometimes we too, like the Jews, tend to question God's ways in the unfolding of our lives. But like them, we too belong to God's family. Like them, we believe in the goodness of God. Jesus reminds us this and holds out to us the promise of new life, transformed by his presence.
The people of Chorazin and Bethsaida did not appreciate what Jesus had done among them. They were indifferent to his healing ministry, and were not inclined to turn back to God. We too can fail to see how the Lord is moving among us. His presence among us is expressed in very ordinary, unspectacular ways. It might take the form of an unexpected kindness that someone shows to us, an invitation that we had not expected, a word of appreciation or support at a time when it was needed, a positive, generous response to a request we make.
Jesus is present to us in and through each other. "Whoever listens to you listens to me." We don't always notice his presence. But the Lord is indeed gracing us in different ways. At evening, it can be good to look back over the day, to discern hints of our Lord's gracious presence, and to quietly give thanks for that.