"If the mighty deeds done for you had been done for them, they would long ago have repented" (Luke 10:13).
Today's short Gospel continues yesterday's account of Jesus sending his disciples out to preach the Kingdom. The theme is one of intense urgency and the need for decisiveness. God is offering an incalculable gift, and today's message is a sharp warning to those who reject God's grace when it is being offered.
The backdrop for this urgency is the memory of what happened to Jerusalem when it failed to keep the covenant and was defeated and exiled to Babylon. The prophet Baruch recorded the misery and suffering of the long exile in Babylon. The restoration of Israel became a dominant history lesson. Never again fail to respond to God's grace while you can. Jesus tells his missionaries that if any town rejects them, the are to shake the dust from their feet as a curse on them, for the consequences will be real and serious.
We prefer a Gospel message of endless mercy and an image of Jesus who never really calls us to decide. No doubt God is infinitely forgiving and merciful, but we live in reality and in history, where evils we set in motion or ignore do not disappear of themselves, but have their effect. Injustice leads to conflict and often to violence, sweeping both the guilty and the innocent away in its path.
A wise mentor once told me, "God never told anyone to be stupid." If we see problems growing in our lives, our culture, our national life, but do nothing to solve them, we should not be surprised if they cause us suffering. God's mercy will not spare us the lessons of history we bring down on ourselves.
Pope Paul VI once said, "if you want peace, work for justice." We might add, "If you want to be comforted, seek wisdom and then do what it tells you to do."