Psalm 1:1-4, 6
In today’s gospel reading Jesus offers us a glimpse of one of the games children played in his time, quite likely one he himself had played in his childhood years. But it is a picture of failure, of a botched game. The image is one of children who refuse to play the game, to respond, even as they are dealt different cards or, for that matter, played different tunes. And that is what Jesus uses as a comparison for his contemporary generation.
I do not know how likely it is that children, who go out to the marketplace to play with other children, would turn passive aggressive. They rather seem to me like people who know what they do not want, but not what they do want. It would be pointless to ask them to choose a tune they like, because they only seem to know which ones they do not like. That is what that generation’s attitude reminded Jesus of. John the Baptist was too “forbidding” for them, Jesus was too “tolerant” for them. So they would respond to neither.
We cannot go through life focused exclusively on what we do not want, for that can only lead to avoidance, not to involvement. We need to focus on what we are for, not just on what we are against. Focusing on what we are against fosters antagonism, prejudice and resentment, and that would seem to be what made the uncooperative children sulk. Focusing on what we are for fosters initiative and drive. Sometimes we spend so much energy avoiding what we do not want, that, when the time comes for us to do what we do want, we are just exhausted and lack all energy to do it.
So today’s gospel can be seen as a challenge from the Lord to us
urging us to name our desires, the things we do want, the tunes we would
be glad to respond to. And it would not be a bad idea to ask the
Lord to help us recognize the things he wants, not just the things he is
against, so we can have a model to guide our own desires.
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