Scripture: Lectionary # 186. Isaiah 49:17-19. Psalm 1:1,1-18.104.22.168. Matthew
As you know so well, the parables of Jesus are often paradoxical and
difficult to understand. They tease our minds and often so do the scholarly
interpretations of them. Perhaps, it is best to look at a commentary that
you like and see if it speaks to you. One professor has said that the
parables are timeless and have the uncanny ability to take each person
where they are in their spiritual life. That means they do have a meaning
for today and for us if we take the time to pray them through as well as
use some of our own abilities in reading literature and analyzing difficult
metaphors and stories. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary has a helpful
comment on the parable in today’s gospel: “The children are John and Jesus;
the call is to play wedding, then funeral; the others are their Palestinian
contemporaries, who reject both the severe way of John and the light yoke
of Jesus.” (Benedict Viviano, O.P.)
There is a call to be good children who would respond to both the game of
being children at a wedding with the singing and dancing and also to be the
children at a funeral where mourning and weeping take place. Children can
easily move from one play to another; more easily than adults. They are
moreover natural actors; just look at those commercials where children are
central to the message.
The readings prompt us to be good and to give it an extra try today. We
are not doing this to get extra gifts at Christmas, but to listen to the
living voice of God as expressed by Isaiah, the Psalmist, and Jesus. All
of these are telling us to join them in the praise of God and not to pout
and refuse to enter into the leisurely atmosphere of prayer as play.
Goodness is attractive and so are children who are good. We are drawn to
them and smile with them in their simplicity and honesty. They may begin
their play by saying, “Let’s pretend”.
We need to get in touch with our own childhood to understand what the
parable is all about in our own lives. We are too involved with
technological games and miss the opportunity to play at real fun with the
children. We must not let them get addicted to the false playing of games
and lose out on life’s real dynamic plays.
The wholesome respond well to the message of today’s readings and are
touched in body, soul, spirit, and imagination by the little parable that
is twofold. Such goodness in the children (seen in John and Jesus) gives us
hope and also is a sign that we are doing God’s will when we understand
John and Jesus within the parable. The common good is involved in the
invitation to others to join in. We can do so and not be like the
contemoraries of John and Jesus.
Isaiah representing God’s living voice says, “I the Lord, teach you what is
good for you.” Then the Psalmist encourages us to choose the good way, the
good paths, and to meditate on the wise choice day and night. We are to
enter into the playground of salvation history through prayer and
participation. We are not to be scoffers, negative people, but children
who play before the Lord of all good. We are then blessed as the Psalmist
promises : “Blessed is the one who walks in the ways of the Lord.” Jesus
wants us to appreciate the different games of life seen in John the
Baptist, the ascetic, and in Jesus himself as the one singing, laughing,
and dancing at a wedding.
St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a good insight into what it means to respond to
the role of Jesus and John in a short Latin maxim: Bonum diffusivum sibi.
Goodness overflows and pervades all with itself. Amen.
Footnote: “In the rabbinic writings it is a commonplace that the generation
of the Messiah will be an unworthy one (Strack-Billerbeck 1,641). Jesus’
parable uses the semitic way of naming extremes to expresss the whole
intermediate range; so it means ‘whatever is suggested.’ The vivid language
and the recognition that he is strongly criticized are traces that the
saying must stem from Jesus himself (Joachim Jeremias p.160). He decries
their perversity also in Matthew 17:17.” ( Henry Wansbrough, O.S.B. Matthew
Copyright 2010 Fr. Bertrand Buby