“To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep'” (Lk 7:31-32).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus convicted those who held a narrow view of who was a true follower of God. He illustrated this by sharing the image of a flute being played and no one danced, thus when times of joy arose, there was no celebration, and when the funeral dirge was sung, they did not weep, they did not mourn. Jesus then tied the analogy to his present condition where there were those who did not accept the ascetical practices of fasting and the call to repentance from John the Baptist, nor did they accept the inclusive table fellowship of Jesus.
In our own time, we have encountered those that are not pleased beyond their own narrow focus and who suffer from tunnel vision. Anything that hints at even a slight variation of change sends tremors of discontent. If we are honest, we all have some resistance to change, but if we are to authentically live the Gospel, St. John Cardinal Newman’s quote is an apt barometer: “To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.” JoAnn was one to embrace change much more easily than I. She consistently helped me, even when I didn’t feel it was helpful, to be more open to change instead of getting too comfortable in a set routine. She has done so again in “changing her address” to a heavenly zip code. Jesus and JoAnn have helped me to adjust to this whopper of a change as well.
The Church, at her best, is a balance between the rock foundation of our core beliefs, such as the Nicene Creed, which provides stability, assuredness, and identity, and being open to the life-giving movement of the Holy Spirit. Each generation must make the Gospel relevant in our own time. We must be flexible and resist rigidity, legalism, and clericalism, so to avoid molding the Church in our image, while at the same time be authentic to renewal, integrity, and embracing the Mystery of God’s movement such that we are molded, transformed, and conformed in the image and likeness of Jesus, who is the embodiment of Love.
We can live a life of joy when we are not threatened by those who are different. The gift of Catholicism is the universal call and invitation of Jesus open to all of humanity. As Catholics, we are to embrace the gift of unity AND diversity, the foundation of the deposit of faith AND the variety of cultural expression. The collaboration of the divine and the human is messy but this both/and not either/or approach is what Jesus guides us to participate in. Is this challenging? Yes. Hard? Yes. Impossible? On our own, and from our own egoistic perspective, yes. When we are willing to surrender our will to the Father, our heart and mind to the Son, and allow our soul to be led by the Holy Spirit, all things are possible!
Photo: At the base of the Jupiter Lighthouse in 1997, I have been truly blessed in my willingness to embrace two big changes in my life, marrying JoAnn in 1996 and moving to Florida in 1997.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, September 16, 2020