Our alleluia verse today sets the tone of our readings. “If today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”
In the Gospel today we hear Jesus speaking like one of the angry prophets of the Old Testament, pronouncing an oracle of doom and judgment on the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Why are these cities being cursed? Because Jesus had spent a great amount of time preaching the Word of God in these cities but people refused to listen. They could not say they were not warned. They hardened their hearts.
When caring words just don’t work anymore and the one you care for refuses to listen to you, I think it is then that your caring words can turn into angry words. Like parents who sometimes say to their children when they are messing up their lives, “Why are you destroying your future? Why are you throwing away your life? Who can stop you from your madness?”
In the Gospel of Luke, we hear about one occasion, when the caring words of Jesus became a lament. He said it while looking at the Jerusalem temple from a distance and wept, feeling helpless that he could not prevent its looming destruction. Listen to what he said in Luke 13,34-35:“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!Behold, your house will be abandoned.” These are words that remind us of Jeremiah 6,26 where the prophet says, “Daughter of my people, dress in sackcloth, roll in the ashes. Weep like a mother as for an only child with bitter wailing: “How suddenly the destroyer comes upon us!”
I think what made Jesus weep was the fact that what was about to happen was already a repetition of history. What Jeremiah had predicted, Jesus is again predicting. The same thing had happened to the people of Judah earlier in the sixth century, before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. The people could not say they were not told. They had been warned several times by the prophets that they were taking the path of self-destruction. But they did not listen. It was only after the prophetic oracle was fulfilled, after the temple was burned and reduced to rubble, and thousands of people were brutally murdered that they realized their big mistake.
In our first reading today, Baruch is expressing a collective lament on behalf of the exiled people after the tragedy that they had been warned about actually came to pass. Listen to the public confession of Baruch, “Today we blush with shame, we the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, along with our kings and rulers, priests and prophets…We have not listened to the voice of the Lord, our God, we chose to disobey the precepts which he set before us…we have disregarded his voice… in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us.”
It is a way of saying, “Lord, we now humbly admit that we deserve our misery…” It is also what we hear in the Responsorial Psalm. In the midst of the series of disasters and tragedies that could have been avoided, now they are begging the Lord to save them, as if the Lord did not try to prevent them from choosing their own destruction. Let me paraphrase their lament, “Lord, How long will you allow us to face so much suffering humiliation, violence and death?… How long will you be angry with us? We know that it was our fault that all of this had happened… Come please and have pity on us for we are brought very low.”
Parang ganito rin ang naririnig kong ibig ipahiwatig ng Diyos sa Pilipinas sa panahong ito ng krisis ng pandemya. Ibinalita kahapon ng Bloomberg na sa listahan ng 53 bansa na unti-unti na raw nakakabawi sa pandemya, number 53 daw tayo, nasa dulong-dulo ng listahan. Halos Linggo-linggo rin na inilalabas ng mga survey ang pangalan ng mga tipong mayroon daw malaking tsansa na manalo sa darating na eleksyon sa May 2022. Sabi ng iba, huwag na lang daw kaya tayong magpakapagod na magbotohan dahil alam na natin batay sa survey kung sino ang mananalo. Siyempre daw iboboto ng tao ay iyong “winnable” at hindi iyong tipong matatalo. Ganoon?
Nakalimutan yata ng tao na ang survey ay hindi pa eleksyon. Hindi pa pinag-isipan. Ni hindi pa nga naririnig ang mga paninindigan ng mga kandidato. Ang taong boboto sa kandidatong popular dahil iyon ang tipong mananalo ayon sa survey, at hindi man lamang nagsikap magtanong, mag-aral, magsuri, magdasal o makinig sa konsensya ay nagkakasala sa Diyos. Winawalang-kahulugan ang kalayaan na ibinigay sa kanila ng Diyos.
At ang naririnig kong warning mula sa langit para sa taong ganyan mag-isip at wala ni katiting na malasakit sa kanilang bayan ay isang SUMPA. Ayaw nyo palang panindigan ang kalayaang bigay ko sa inyo, sige, aalisin ko na lang. Sige kung iyan ang gusto ninyo. Huwag ninyong sabihing hindi kayo na-warningan. At huwag na kayong dumaing sa akin kapag nangyari na ang sumpa, kapag nakadapa na ang inyong bansa sa pagkakalugmok at pagkakawasak. Okey lang kung ayaw ninyong makinig. Pero huwag kayong magreklamo. Huwag ninyong idaing o isisi sa akin kapag nagdusa kayo.
Sana, bago man lang mangyari ang sumpa, bago man lang tayo magsisi, makinig naman tayo. Ulit-ulitin lang natin sa sarili ang sinabi ng Salmo, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”