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)
Jesus’ parable about a group of disappointed musicians and their stubborn friends who refuse to sing or dance at the appropriate occasion challenge us to examine whether we are selective to only hear and do what we want to hear.
He describes his generation — and frankly every generation — like children in marketplaces “sitting,” in other words, not wanting to move. They’re playing different music and want everyone to respond to that music: if they play the flute, they want people to dance; if they play a dirge, they want people to mourn. The key is that they want to set the terms of the interaction. They want the others to move.
That’s what Jesus was saying they were doing with God’s messenger and God himself. They criticized John the Baptist for his ascetically fasting; and when Jesus wasn’t fasting because he was showing us how to rejoice because the bridegroom was with us, they criticized him for drawing close in mercy to the hedonists like the tax collectors and other sinners, who were enjoying the things of this world in a disordered way. They failed to grasp that it’s we who should be dancing to the Lord’s music and not the other way around.
Often, we too, try to play the music for our relationship with the Lord. We play soft, sentimental hits and want the Lord just to touch our emotions. Or we’ll play marches and want the Lord to ship others around us into shape and boss them around like a drill sergeant. Or we’ll play heavy metal and drown out the Lord’s whisper. Or we won’t play any music at all, because we’re in a bad mood, or hate music, or can’t sing, or anything else.
The point is that we need to attune ourselves to what the Lord is playing. God tells us through Isaiah, “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.” We need to allow him to teach and guide us, rather than our seeking to teach him how the world, our life and the lives of those around us should run. We need to follow him rather than, like Peter when Jesus called him “Satan,” try to lead him. We need to learn in all of these ways to sing with him a new song.
He continually pleads with us to learn to see with his eyes and hear with his ears, even on this earth—to let him make himself present here, through our fiat. “It is like children,” he says, who know how to recognize a dirge or dance melody. A child’s simplicity is all sincerity and transparency. How much Christ desires that we approach him in this manner.
When we listen to what the Lord teaches us for our own good and allow him to lead us on the way we should go, hearkening to his commandments, as Isaiah tells us, we will spiritually prosper like a river. But if we don’t, if we want to remain in control, the Psalmist tells us we will be like chaff, dead airy matter with no holy solidity, blown away by our whims.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, open my ears to hear the good news of your kingdom and set my heart free to love and serve you joyfully. May nothing keep me from following you wholeheartedly.
What can make us spiritually dull and slow to hear God’s voice? Like the generation of Jesus’ time, our age is marked by indifference and contempt, especially in regards to the things of heaven. Indifference dulls our ears to God’s voice and to the good news of the Gospel. Only the humble of heart can find joy and favor in God’s sight. Is your life in tune with Jesus’ message of hope and salvation? And do you know the joy and blessing of believing and obeying God’s word?