A Reflection on The Gospel of Mathew 11: 16-19
(Internet Image from Joe)
In the Gospel today, you can sense a bit of our Lord’s humanity in His frustration with the people of Israel, and by extension, us. He tells us that He has called the world to Himself in various ways. He calls us through beauty, the children playing the flute; but so many will not dance. He reminds us of our own mortality, the children playing the dirge, but many will not mourn nor repent. Everything that Jesus does declares His divinity, but not everyone acknowledges it. Jesus is very direct when he replies to St John the Baptist to verify, through very public miracles, that He is the Christ, God,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11:4–6 NABRE)
Despite all the miracles and signs, many refuse to listen and instead, accuse and seek to find fault with Jesus and St John the Baptist who announced Him. Even now, so many walk away from the countless miracles of love. From the Gospel today, our Lord laments,
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 11:18–19 NABRE)
God, crazy in love with us, reaches out repeatedly with an offer of reconciliation, redemption, and salvation. He sends prophet after prophet, grants us inordinate wisdom and understanding through the gift of Sacred Scripture, and finally comes to us as God incarnate to share in our humanity and to tell us directly the way to salvation from the certain death that looms before us. Yet we question, equivocate, doubt, mock, and in sinning turn our backs to God and His grace-filled offer of love, mercy, and healing. Think of it, as Jesus is dying at our hands, because of our sin, likely naked, exposed to a mocking crowd, his flesh torn and bloody, his hands and feet nailed to a cross, through all of His pain, He considers us first. On the cross, He cries out to God the Father on our behalf to forgive us (Luke 23:34). This is pure love! Yet, with all of this, so many still refuse to listen and most importantly, change. They will neither dance nor repent.
In the Gospel, Jesus has just been informed that even St John the Baptist, through his disciples, is asking Him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3 NABRE) It is very likely that even St John the Baptist anticipated that the Lord would come other than as He has. Earlier, St John the Baptist tells the crowds that are coming to him that,
… the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11–12 NABRE)
Yet, the Lord, even with St John’s doubting, holds St John up as a model. He says,
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he, (Matthew 11:11 NABRE)
Why? In everything St John did, though he may question and seek answers, his faith never waivers. This is wisdom. It is a surety that the God of love and mercy, so willing to forgive and forget our sin, will never abandon all who will turn to Him and accept the grace and salvation He offers. St John does not walk away but trusts in God’s divine providence. God’s will, not our will, be done.
It is ingrained in our fallen nature to doubt. Yet, what part of doubt is not satisfied when we open our eyes to see the miracles that surround us. Will you open your eyes? Today Jesus is asking, how much does it take for you to understand, and in understanding, to change? Jesus says to the crowds following Him,
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.’ (Matthew 11:16–17 NABRE)
In this Advent season take the opportunity to see the many blessings and miracles that the Lord has done, and is doing, in our lives. He is playing the flute for us, calling us to dance! Will you dance? Yes, there is pain and suffering as well. Yet, this too is a call for conversion, an opportunity to declare with our lives that, like St John the Baptist, our faith transcends our doubts. He is singing a dirge that we might mourn and, in this, repent, turn our hearts back to our Lord. But will we mourn? Jesus tells us to look at His action in our lives and in this, “wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (Matthew 11:19 NABRE).
Wisdom is having faith in the overwhelming and crazy love of God, who never stops trying to get our attention so that we might come to salvation. Today, let your prayer affirm your faith and put away your doubts, for our Savior has come and will come again! Listen for the flute and dance! Hear the dirge and repent! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus and do not delay.
Joe. “Sky View: Flute Players, Dancers and Christians.” Sky View, 18 Sept. 2013, catholic-skyview-tremblay.blogspot.com/2013/09/flute-players-dancers-and-christians.html. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.
New American Bible. Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.