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God seeking our attention

Friday, December 15, 2006
Friday 2 of Advent

Readings: Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalm 1; Matthew 11:16-19

The behaviour of the children of the parable in today’s gospel will be familiar from our own experience “we played the flute for you, and you did not dance, we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn” (Mt 11:16-19). Children learn by role play and mimicry, and here one active group are trying to persuade a passive group to join in.

The point of the parable (coming after a description of the relations between Jesus and John the Baptist, and their respective disciples) is that there is no positive response to either Jesus or John by their opponents. Matthew seems to use this to give his community a means of understanding its relative lack of success in proclaiming its message: not the roles (the way of life of John or Jesus) but the mean-spiritedness and blindness of their opponents are the problem.

Children, especially younger ones, are needy and importunate, demanding the active involvement of adults. Why should they not? This is, after all, how they survive. We might tend to see ourselves in the role of the children in this scenario, seeking the attention of Jesus, but that, I think, is to get the wrong end of the stick. Rather, it’s God who is importuning us, to wake up from our self-absorption and learn how to keep his company, dance to his tune, which Matthew has scored for us a few chapters earlier in the beatitudes, in the Sermon on the Mount.


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