Monday, July 11, 2016

"THEY DID NOT REPENT."


Homily for July 12th, 2016: Matthew 11:20-24.

          A priest was waiting in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him at the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. "Sorry about the delay. Father,” the young man said. “It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.@ The priest chuckled, "I know what you mean. It's the same in my line of work."

          There’s name for that. We call it procrastination. This is what Jesus is talking about in the gospel reading we have just heard. Matthew starts by telling us: “Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented.” We can assume that the mighty deeds Matthew refers to were his healing miracles, but also his powerful proclamation of God’s merciful love.

          Those powerful deeds called for a response. Jesus rebukes the people in the towns where he had preached and healed because there had been no response. “They had not repented,” Matthew says.  Repentance means “turning around:” forsaking evil and turning to good. The reaction to his mighty deeds had been no more than a complacent, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

         Jesus rebukes those who had refused to respond to him by reminding them of towns mentioned in the Old Testament which had been destroyed because of their refusal to repent of their evil ways and turn toward goodness. If only they had repented, they would be standing today, Jesus says.

          Procrastinating is so easy, and so common that probably all of us are guilty of it in some measure. “I’ll take care of that tomorrow,” we tell ourselves. Will we? We think we have time. One day, however, the time we’re counting on will end. Our stay here on earth will be over, and God will call us home, to meet him face to face. What will that encounter be like? Will it be a joyful meeting with a familiar and dearly loved friend? Or will we be meeting a stranger, before whom we shrink in fear? The Lord allows us to decide beforehand what that encounter will be like.

It is the most important decision we shall ever have.