Jesus said to the crowds, “To what will I compare this generation?” It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and
calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
~ Matthew 11.16-17
Anyone who has spent time with a 3-year-old or a 13-year-old knows this: There’s just no pleasing some people. The toddler refuses to put on his shoes or rejects his dinner with a vehement “NO!” while the young teen rolls her eyes at her father’s jokes or complains bitterly about a teacher. Most of the time, these nabobs of negativity act not out of sheer perversity; rather, as they encounter unsettling change and growth, they are trying to assert control in circumstances that might otherwise overwhelm them.
“This generation” of religious leaders whom Jesus takes to task in today’s Gospel, though far removed historically and culturally from 21st-century teenagers, are surprisingly like them in resisting the new and different. Given two successive models of the prophetic life, they reject each in succession. They dismiss the asceticism of John the Baptist as demonic. They censure Jesus, who forgoes asceticism, as a glutton and a drunkard. In other words, there’s no pleasing them.
But before we smile condescendingly at their deafness to the life-changing message of Jesus, we ought to look in the mirror. Deep within our souls, when we hear the summons of Christ to change our patterns of life, are we truly responding? Or do we assume an attitude of non-vehement resistance, rationalizing that it is not just not sensible or timely for us to answer that particular call right now? We can push away the gifts that Christ offers us like a temperamental toddler, or we can strike out after him in faith and trust.
Almighty God, Spirit of Truth, Give me the spirit of courage so that I might fully embrace your call to a new way of life. Amen.
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