Friday of week 2 of Advent – Gospel


Commentary on Matthew 11:16-19
Today’s readings are about listening to what God is saying to us. The Gospel reading follows immediately on yesterday’s passage about John the Baptist as the one preparing the way for the Messiah. It ended with the words, "Whoever has ears ought to hear."
So in today’s reading Jesus upbraids the crowds for not listening. He compares them to children in the market place who complain to their playmates: "We piped to you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn."
Thus, when John came in great austerity, neither eating nor drinking, fasting and wearing a garment of camel’s hair, people said he was possessed by an evil spirit. On the other hand, when Jesus came "eating and drinking", they said, "See, a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."
If we do not want to hear what God is saying to us through the people and situations in our life, we can so easily rationalise and reject the bearer’s frailty and in the process reject the Gospel as well – which is actually quite illogical. "A priest shouted at me in confession so I don’t go to church any more." It would be like rejecting democracy because of the corruption of a democratically elected official.
We do need to distinguish very clearly between the central vision of the Kingdom which Jesus left to us and the ways in which that vision has been lived out through the centuries. It was Paul who said a long time ago that we Christians carry the message of the Gospel in vessels of clay, easily broken, often leaking. It is important for us to realise that God can and does speak to us through very unexpected media and agents. It is probably true to say that some of the greatest saints had serious weaknesses. In fact, many of them became saints because of their weaknesses and through their weaknesses (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul thanks God for working through his weaknesses).
It is important, as Jesus urges us, that we really try to listen to the essence of what Jesus left us, his vision of the Kingdom. Very few of us hear the message without some form of filtering due to our history or our personal idiosyncrasies. As a preacher, I often say that when I preach to 20 people, 20 different messages are heard. And there is nothing wrong with that provided each one of us really tries to hear what God is saying to me and do not immediately push away something I do not like to hear.
The passage is nicely summed up in the last phrase: "Wisdom is vindicated by her works." Jesus is the embodiment of the Wisdom of God. Jesus needs no justification beyond the results of his life shown in all that he said and did, especially with the ultimate manifestation of love shown on the Cross. And the same can be true for each one of us.

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