Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We Played The Flute, But You Did Not Dance; We Sang A Dirge, But You Did Not Weep.

Today’s First Reading returns to the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy (2:14-16)

Paul was hoping to visit Timothy soon, but wrote this letter in case there was a change in his plans. He wanted to be sure that the members of the church of Ephesus, of which Timothy was bishop, learned “how to behave in the house of God.”

The church is not the building in which Christians worship; they are themselves are the Church of the living God, the foundation and the pillars of devotion, that is, of genuine worship. God has entrusted his Church with the truth. Each of the local churches has the responsibility to teach the truth, and to protect the truth from all that is false. There were some people in Ephesus who taught error, in opposition to the truth. Timothy was encouraged – one might say “enjoined”, since Paul was not known to mince words -- Timothy was encouraged to stop them from spreading falsehood. Yet, Paul also was well aware, and shared with Timothy, a basic principle about teaching and preaching the gospel: If is more fruitful to give witness to the truth than to struggle against falsehood. The Church at Ephesus needed to learn, and to practice, true religion.


The secret of true religion which God has shared with His people is Christ Jesus: who He is, and what he accomplished. Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke to his people about the day when Christ would come. When he came Christ had to suffer and die to make restitution to God for us. Yet no one really understood that on Good Friday or on Easter morning. It was forty days later that Jesus stood on a hilltop outside the City of Jerusalem, and told his followers: Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit; and then he was taken up in glory.

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Today’s gospel is from Luke (7:31-35).

Jesus spoke to the crowd: I am going to tell you what the people of this generation are like. You are like children sitting in the marketplace playing games. They call to each other: “We play the flute for you, music for a wedding, but you would not dance. They we sang a dirge, a sad song for a funeral, but you would not weep.” When John the Baptist came, he ate very little food, and drank no wine at all, and you said, “He must be possessed by a demon!” When the Son of Man came, he ate and he drank. You said, “Look at him! He is a glutton and a drunkard. He is friendly with tax collectors (who were Jewish men in the service of the Roman government), and sinners (who were Jewish women – and you probably know what service they provided.)


There is a role-reversal in today’s gospel. People are judging God’s word – both the preaching and the person, and they reject it for opposite reasons. John the Baptist was an ascetic, in the mode of Jeremiah, who fasted, prayed, and preached hellfire and damnation. Jesus is open and friendly. He enjoys going to wedding banquets, and when the caterer’s wine runs out, he is known to produce more. The truth is, whenever God’s wisdom is rejected, whoever the preacher, and whatever the reason, there is little opportunity for the heart to become open again to hear God’s word. The true seeker of wisdom appreciates and welcomes God’s message, however it is presented. Today’s plea is for wisdom, and today’s prayer one of thanksgiving to our heavenly Father who is generous, patient and merciful toward his people, even when we are less childlike than childish.

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

I came across your site after trawling through various others about the "I played the flute.." reading. I'm delighted to learn that you are presenting meditations on the daily readings, and surprised to find no comments!?? This is a wonderful service. Thank you.

I have been trying to meditate on the daily readings for some time, and particularly like the layout on the USCCB site (although I wish they included the names of the saints for each day, as I like to look them up too!). Here are my own thoughts on today's Gospel reading:

The children are in a market place (cafeteria Catholics, perhaps!). Some of them want to play weddings (uplifting sermons); some of them want to play funerals (scary sermons) but they can't agree and keep changing their minds anyway. Weddings and funerals are times when bonds are forged and broken, i.e. marriage covenants and last will-and-testaments. So, one day we're desperate to get married; the next we're desperate to get divorced. One day we're making plans for an inheritance; the next we're stricken with grief. This can be applied to the messianic expectations of the time and our own relationship with God. We should remember Solomon who, when offered a choice by God, chose the gift of Wisdom.