Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Today, in Mercy, we read one of the saddest Gospel passages, the woes to Chorazain, Bethsaida and Capernaum. These little villages were precious to Jesus, like little children to a loving teacher. Jesus had preached and performed amazing miracles in these towns. Still they had not demonstrated that basic change of heart which proclaims, “I believe”. They had not become places of mercy, justice and mutual love.
Notice that Jesus does not deliver these woes to individuals. He doesn’t say, “Harry, you messed up!” or “Gert, you better get it together”. What Jesus is talking about here is corporate guilt, that kind of hard-hearted sinfulness that affects whole institutions, clubs, societies, cities, nations.
This kind of sin manifests itself in a dehumanization of people, and a blindness to mercy and love. In Jesus’ day, such sin had infected the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, and probably a host of smaller religious, political and social networks.
In our day, we might recognize it in our churches, governments, or social associations. Its dead giveaway is the act of marking any person as “other”: not white like us, not men like us, not American like us, not Gentiles like us, not straight like us, smart, rich, educated and privileged like us — not fully human like us.
Corporate sin confuses justice with law, power with control, importance with success, wealth with possession, strength with domination. It is the kind of sin wherein a weaker group must suffer in order for the stronger group to thrive. We see its effects in war, economic suppression, racism and nationalism, misogyny and homophobia, and in the devastation of the Earth.
To the degree that we espouse and benefit from such corporate sin – or to the degree that we remain silent in its presence – woe to us as well.
Music: De Profundis – Gregorian Chant
From the depths of woe I cry to You,
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication:
If You, O Lord, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness,
that You may be revered.
I trust in the Lord;
my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the Lord.
For with the Lord is kindness,
and with Him is plenteous redemption;
And He will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.