(Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30)
When I was a child I didn’t have all kinds of devices, as today’s children have. The summer holidays began at the end of June and end on September 15. The long summer days forced us to be inventive so as not to get bored. Those with more inspiration offered us all kinds of tricks. Our games included those through which we imitated the lives of adults. We organized weddings, christened dolls, built schools and organized classes, had prisons, traded, using leaves, as money. Many of these games were a kind of irony about adult life. They were moments of fun, but they didn’t really engage us sentimentally, just as the events we imitate engaged the adults. Some children imitated a band that sang at the wedding, and others imitated the dancers. One child imitates the groom and another the bride. Another was the priest who blessed their marriage. It was fun until one or other of the children appeared that took the role too seriously and was upset if we laughed at how ridiculous one or the other of us was. In order not to get into a fight, we unanimously decided that it’s time to play something else. We immediately forgot the previous roles and we tried to play the new ones. We went from one to another role because we were not affected, we just had fun.
Every time I read verse 17, from chapter 11 of Matthew, I think of those years of my life and our games. So far it sounds interesting, but the deep melancholy of Jesus from verses 16 to 19 is something that should mark us. From the presentation of John the Baptist, Jesus goes directly to this melancholy, sad tone. “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children”. Jesus’ listeners, then and now, know what he is talking about. When some children do not react well to what others do, the game breaks. They no longer take each other seriously, a sign that they are bored. They want something else that interests them. But sometimes they are so disinterested in each other that nothing works. The group of children disperses, after several exchanges of accusations. Can there be a more realistic description of our society?
Once he described the generation from his time, Jesus goes on to explain. John the Baptist came and shouted to them. He was very serious and sometimes upbraided them. Sometimes they were shocked, sometimes amazed at John’s way of being, but they quickly forgot. They didn’t take him seriously. Jesus went to their weddings, ate with them, cried at their funerals, suffered with those who were suffering, stayed with them and told stories with them, explained to them how it is better to live to be well. They failed to stay interested for long.
Because of this, Jesus speaks with a deep sadness about them. He wanted the best for them, but he was not taken seriously. He explained to them how to understand what was happening to them and what to learn from all this, but they quickly got bored.
Jesus showed them, he also shows us that the lesson to be learned is just unfolding in our lives, we just have to pay a little attention to it and try not to get bored too quickly and forget even faster. The situation our world is going through now is an ongoing lesson. He doesn’t blame us, he doesn’t upbraid us for not doing the right thing and that’s why we got here. We know that we are not without guilt for the diseases that come more and more, for the disorder of the nature around us, for the deep social sufferings rooted in our history. He invites us to stop a little from our usual agitation because we have been given enough wisdom to understand. We just have to.
Despite all the sadness when he describes human behaviour, he does not upbraid us. The fact that we humbly accept to understand the situation we live in is a reason for gratitude for him. It is a reason for a deep prayer to God the Father. Accepting means getting to know what’s going on. And this is a great gift. It is the beginning of healing, of salvation. Jesus thanks his Father for giving us this gift of understanding, this wisdom.
He knows, at the same time, that we know the truth about what is happening and why it is an extremely difficult burden, but he does not leave us alone, he does not abandon us to our history of sin. The mission with which he came into the world is to love us and to teach us to love. This is his burden, this is his yoke. It is the only way in which our soul and our world can be healed. He invites us to leave our burden and to embrace his, to carry it with him. It is the easiest way to heal.
I stop here with the exposition of the Gospel fragment for this Sunday, but I invite you to pray together. Let us pray to learn well the lesson that is exposed to us now, in our lives, around us. Let us pray for those who suffer because of the unlearned and unaccepted lessons of the past. We have a heavy yoke to wear. Let us pray to learn once and for all that the yoke of the evils of the past and the present is not due only to some or others. Let us pray to remain consistent with the lesson learned in order to begin to heal ourselves and our world and the creation we still enjoy. Let us pray that we do not quickly forget when things seem to be going well and that we do not quickly get bored of loving each other.
(Revd. Bernard Noghiu, Southend on Sea, 4th July 2020)