The Lord our God is in the right, but there is open 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.
"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."
Today's text from Baruch dates to the Babylonian exile (587-539 B.C.), and the context for his sermond was the autumnal feast of Tabernacles. A collection was being taken up, to be sent to Jerusalem for sacrifices and for helping the poor in the holy city. The feast of Tabernacles was originally an octave of great rejoicing. During the exile, however, and in the postexilic period, the joy was tinged with sorrow, for the contrast between what the feast celebrated and the reality of life was so glaring. In Ezra's day the people needed to be told, "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength" (Neh 8:9-10).
Baruch insists that this sorrow is the fault of the people, not of God: we should blush with shame, for we have been disobedient; we went off after the desires of our own heart. Yet the same merciful God of the exodus is with us today. We are asked to repent, to reform our ways, to set our faces towards our good inspirations and yes, most of all to be men and women of hope.
We too tend to question God's wisdom, or God's providence in our own lives. Yet here we are reminded how much we belong to God's family. Like Moses in the desert, we have experienced the goodness, even the miracles of God. In the gospel, Jesus reminds us again of these miracles and holds out to us, even when melancholy and without hope, a new life, transformed by his presence.
Jesus laments the fact that the people of the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida did not appreciate all that he had done among them. They were indifferent to the Lord's gracious works in their midst, and were not in any way moved by them to turn more fully towards God. We too can sometimes miss the ways that the Lord is moving among us. His presence among us will generally express itself in very ordinary, unspectacular ways. It might take the form of an 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, a positive and willing response to a call that we make on someone. The Lord comes to us especially in and through his followers, in and through each other in the church. As he says in today's gospel, "Anyone who listens to you listens to me." We do not always recognize the ways in which the Lord touches our lives. We don't always notice the Lord passing by and gracing us in different ways. At the end of our day, it can be good to look back over that day and to notice where the Lord has been gracing us with his presence, and, then to quietly give thanks for that.