15 December
Mt 11:16-19

Jesus said, ‘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.’

Today’s reading indicates that the teaching of Jesus was not getting through to his hearers.  There was widespread disaffection.  The people rejected John because he was too different from them and Jesus because he was not like John. 

It was said of the population of ancient Rome that they were interested only in “bread and circuses.”  Bread to kill the real ache in the stomach, circuses to set up a fictional ache in the heart.  Tolstoy (or was it Dostoyevsky?) used to be very impressed, when he was a child, by the tears his mother shed in the theatre; she must have a really compassionate nature, he thought.  But later in his life he remembered the coachman who had to wait outside the theatre in sub-zero temperatures – she had no compassion for the real man, only for the fictional. 

Jesus rejected the temptation to fame (Lk 4:9-12).  He rejected theatre.  And so he was not a success. Celebrities in our own time sacrifice their lives to fame: they have to court their fans, knowing that that these same fans could turn on them mercilessly in a moment.  Yes, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:6-11) had a touch of theatre about it; and inevitably the crowd that shouted ‘Hosanna!’ were soon shouting ‘Crucify him!’ 

Jesus had no illusions.  That's who he is: the one who has no illusions.


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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