Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! 

These are some pretty harsh words!   Jesus’ statements of woe against the cities where he ministered can sound as if he is promising to retaliate against them for having rejected his message.   We can get the idea that he will come in a fit of rage and destroy anyone who doesn’t repent for their sins.

But something’s not quite right with this picture.   Jesus isn’t so sensitive that he needs to bully people into obedience.   Rather, he is lamenting what will happen to these cities because of their lack of repentance.   All the miracles that he performed in them, all his teaching and parables—it was all meant to show them what life could be like if they turned back to God and began treating each other with mercy and compassion.

The destruction that Jesus predicts will come, not from his hand, but from the hands of the people themselves.   As St. Paul once wrote,  “If you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15).

Repentance doesn’t mean just saying “I’m sorry.”   It means turning our lives around.   It means asking the Lord for his grace as we try to change our behavior.   This is what Jesus was hoping would happen in all of these cities.   But it didn’t.   They remained trapped in their sin, despite all the demonstrations of God’s love, power, and mercy Jesus showed them.

Jesus knows how easily we can give in to temptations like greed, envy, resentment, and lust.   He also knows how dangerous these sins are.   It’s why he went so far as to die for us: to set us free from these sins and to fill us with his Spirit of love.

Jesus spoke these words after he had left Galilee behind and had begun heading for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).   He had done all he could, and it was time to move on toward the cross.   Isn’t it wonderful that he hasn’t “moved on” from us?   Day after day, he gives us countless opportunities to repent, to change our hearts and behaviors, and to bear the kind of fruit that can change not only us, but the people around us as well.

Word Among Us