14 December, 2012. Second Week of Advent. Friday. (or: St. John of the Cross)
First Reading: Isaiah 48:17-19
(If you heed my commandments, your name will last forever.)
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. O that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your prosperity would have been like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.
Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19
(Jesus criticises those of his generation who listened to nobody.)
“But 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.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
We each prefer one way of life more than another, and that is very normal. God created each one of us with a distinctive personality, special preferences, individualized vocations. Because we tend to become overly specialized with strong likes and dislikes, we badly need others to complement what we are lacking. St. Paul even went so far as to say that each of us must fill up what is lacking in the body of Christ! Yet we tend to resist this advice; we do not want to admit our weaknesses. We even become defensive and then aggressive if others detect our inability to perform or control.
This ability to fill in what is missing in any one of us becomes the issue or main point of Jesus’ words. Jesus quoted a proverb which acknowledged how we need joyful people who dance readily and compassionate people always ready to sympathize. Yet each was spurned and ridiculed: “We piped you a tune but you did not dance! We sang you a dirge but you did not wail!” He was leading up to the punchline: John [the Baptist] appeared neither eating nor drinking, and people say, “He is mad!” The Son of Man appeared eating and drinking, and they say, “This one is a glutton and a drunkard!” Many practical conclusions can be drawn from these words, but most of all he is pleading with us to let others be themselves.
We must not judge harshly nor condemn too quickly. Others have every right to that which God provides so plentifully and so freely – namely, time. We all need time to grow and so develop our own individual talents. We long to be encouraged and affirmed, so that we can keep trying. Others must be patient and tolerant, overlooking mistakes, gently correcting, learning from us all the while. As a community or family, we must be anxious to profit from all the talents around us – from those prompt to sympathize with our sorrows, from those who are austere, as well as from those who are more easygoing, sociable and even bounding outside the accepted norms. Jesus ate with tax collectors and others outside the law.
If we remain united in love, we will be quick to applaud and slow to judge. We will persevere through troubles and give everyone the necessary time and space to grow and to make his or her contribution. We will appreciate the help and contribution of others, all the more as we develop our own specialized talents. Only through others will we be truly balanced and integral in our values and attitude.