Jesus said to the crowds: ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
When we were young we liked to be seen as one of the crowd, one that did not stand out as being ‘different’ in any way. Many of us will have worked hard at ‘getting it right’, at ‘fitting in’, at not being the one at whom others pointed. As we have grown older, many will have clung on to this need to be ‘ordinary’ and ‘average’. Many will have striven to live a ‘normal’ life, quietly and without giving anyone the occasion to point us out as being ‘different’. Of course, there are those who have learnt not to care about the opinions of others, and may, quite intentionally, set out to be unlike others.
In today’s reading Jesus speaks of the fickle nature of those who see themselves as being the arbiters of good practice and acceptable behaviour. Jesus looked at those amongst whom he lived and he highlighted the double standards he saw all around him. The invitation that was ignored, that is the invitation to join the dance, to wail or to mourn, provides us with a reminder of people’s reactions to the preaching of John the Baptist. John stood out as someone who did not follow the fashions and practices of the day. John called people to prepare themselves for the Messiah who would soon walk amongst them. But, whilst there was great interest in his words and in the baptism he offered, so many did not heed his call to repentance, his call to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Jesus then criticizes the attitudes and behaviours of the Pharisees. When they looked upon John, who lived a parsimonious life, they spoke of him as being possessed; when they looked upon Jesus, who moved amongst those who were in need of the salvation he came to bring, they spoke of his gluttony and drunkenness.
The challenge for us in today’s reading addresses our willingness to stand out from the crowd in the way we live out our lives as faithful disciples and apostles. We are being challenged to let go of our need to hide in the shadows and to bear the light of Christ as we walk amongst those who are in need of a beacon to guide them through the twists and turns of this world. Let us pray that we might be like John as we step out into the world today, and every day, in the name of Christ.