Dec. 15: Capriccioso

(Allef Vinicius / Unsplash)

Dec. 15: Second Friday of Advent

Jesus said to the crowd: ”To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Mt 11:16-19).

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Over a decade has passed, but I still remember the shock I felt by the ice rink when a fellow mom commented mid-conversation, as we watched our kids at hockey practice, “You’re really a kind of ‘glass half-empty’ person, aren’t you?” It stung to be identified as a pessimist and naysayer—but her observation had enough truth to prompt some genuine soul-searching, and I have worked hard since that moment to reverse the tendency to negativity, consciously striving to “ac-cen-tchu-ate the positive,” as the popular 1940s Johnny Mercer song preaches.

Each of us has at some point encountered—or been—that person who is impossible to please, whose response to any suggestion or request, no matter how artfully phrased, is some version of “No!” It is a standard human reaction to protect ourselves against the challenge of something new or unfamiliar by putting up a wall—but a reaction we should work to overcome.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus likens his oppositional contemporaries to fickle children in the marketplace. Before them are two models of holiness: the spartan asceticism of John the Baptist, who came “neither eating nor drinking,” and the joyful companionability of Jesus, who came eating and drinking and befriending sinners. To these skeptics, John’s self-denying ways are demonic; Jesus’ exuberant embrace of food and fellowship is evidence of self-indulgence and gluttony. “No!’ is their reply.

Before we look askance at them, we might ask ourselves: How do we answer the summons to self-sacrifice, or the invitation to Christian joy?

Prayer: Gracious Lord, Help me overcome my tendency to push off the new or the unfamiliar, and make me receptive to your life-giving call. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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