Just the Way You Are

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)

Scripture Study

11:16–17 Jesus speaks of this generation. On the surface, the expression seems harmless enough, meaning the people who are alive now. But in the Bible, this phrase generally refers to an unfaithful generation. It calls to mind the wicked generation of Noah’s day (Gen 6:5–8) as well as the faithless generation of Israel that was denied entrance into the promised land (Deut 1:35; 32:5). Jesus will later make these recollections from biblical history more explicit (17:17; 24:37–39).

Then follows a proverb that alludes to village life in Palestine. According to customs among children, boys invited their companions to dance at weddings and girls sang laments at funerals and invited their friends to mourn. Here, sounding the flute refers to the call of Jesus, who spoke of himself as a bridegroom enjoying the celebration of a wedding feast (9:15). Likewise, the singing of a dirge represents the ascetic witness of John, in particular the fasting he encouraged among his disciples (9:14). And the disagreeable playmates who refuse to dance or mourn—these are the crowds that declined both the festive invitation of Jesus as well as the penitential summons of John.

11:18–19 John came neither eating nor drinking, which means that he engaged in no celebratory feasting. The desert prophet, who lived on foods found in the wild, had nothing to do with banquets and delicacies. Nor did he know the joys of wine that normally went with it.9 For this reason, some people thought him exceedingly strange and concluded that he must be possessed by a demon. Jesus, however, attended dinner parties in order to bring his message to the common people. Yet some glared with a critical eye and called him a glutton and a drunkard (see Deut 21:20). In the end, it seems that nothing could please the faithless generation of John and Jesus. They turned their backs on feasting as well as fasting, for they wanted nothing to do with the wisdom of the Messiah and his forerunner.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel the Pharisees compare the eating habits of John the Baptist, who fasted, and Jesus, who dined with sinners. In the carefully stratified society of Jesus’ time, a righteous person would never associate with the unrighteous, for fear of becoming unclean.

But here is Jesus, scandalizing everyone because he does indeed break down these barriers. How would you feel if you saw me socializing with prostitutes and drug-dealers, eating and drinking with terrorists? Would it shock you, dismay you, disappoint you? But this is what Jesus did, precisely because he was the Incarnation of the God who aggressively seeks out the lost.

God looks for us, comes running after us, never lets go, never relents, never gives up. The more we run, the more he runs after; the more we hide, the more he looks; the more we resist, the more he persists. God likes sinners and associates with them.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.