Jesus said to the crowds: “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.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (Matthew 11: 16-19)
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I place myself in your presence. I have set aside this moment for you so that you can speak to me and I can listen to your words. Speak to my heart! I believe that you are present, bringing all the graces I need right now in the current circumstances of my life. I hope in you, Lord, because I know I cannot place my hope in the things of the world. I love you, Lord, and I know how much you love me.
Petition: Lord, help me to speak well of others always and never be envious.
1. Children at the Market Jesus’ words about the children in the market seem a bit strange to us today. He is alluding to the popular children’s games of that time that mimic the festive dances at weddings or the crying at funerals. But when they should be dancing for a wedding, these children cry; and when they should be crying for a funeral, they dance. Now, even worse, they’ve stopped playing altogether and sit idle. Their only game has become slander. Jesus statement is that “this generation,” like these children, has done the opposite of what God intended. They should have received the Messiah with open arms, but they have rejected him. They should have been faithful to the covenant and worshipped Yahweh, but they preferred to sit idle in comfort. Jesus is making a very strong critique of the people of his time.
2. Our Generation This leads to an interesting question: What would Jesus say about our generation? He became man, but people are offended by Christmas. He invited the children to come to him, but prayer is not allowed in schools. We could go on and on. Christ’s lamentation in this Gospel is directed to his contemporaries, but Jesus’ message is for every generation, for mankind is essentially the same now as then. Some will accept his message, others will reject it. Some will follow God’s plan, others will not. This did not stop Christ from preaching. In a like manner, we shouldn’t give up either; being a Christian will always be countercultural. What matters is that Jesus’ words find an open heart in us.
3. An Enemy of Slander There was much gossip about Jesus in his day. After reading this passage, I imagined Jesus just leaving the market place. There, next to the checkout counter at the fig-stand, he saw the latest tabloids: “Follower tells all: Jesus is a drunkard;” or, “Shocking pics of Jesus dining with tax-collectors reveal where he really gets the money to fund his ministry;” and, what surely enraged him, “Exorcist exposé: proof that John the Baptist was possessed by a demon.” Gossip, a fruit of envy, comes when people are not happy or at peace with themselves; their first reaction is to make sure others aren’t happy either. Jesus’ dignity while enduring gossip reminds us not to gossip about others: It should have no part in the life of a Christian. It also reminds us that true happiness and peace are found in Christ, not in slandering others.
Conversation with Christ: “Lord, all that we have in both soul and body, whatever we possess within or without, naturally or supernaturally, come from You and shows forth your bountiful goodness. Persons who have received more cannot boast as though they had gained them by their own merit; those who, through humility, consider themselves least, are worthy of all and fit to receive still greater blessings. Those who have received fewer gifts should not be sad or envious. Instead they should look up to You and praise Your goodness because you bestow your gifts generously without respect of persons” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Chapter 22, 4).Resolution: I will refuse to participate in gossip the next time the occasion arises. Instead, say something positive about the person.