A reflection and prayer for December 15, 2017, Day 13 of Advent
Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (Matthew 11:16-19)
The human habit of dissatisfaction and judgment Jesus describes here, true 2,000 years ago, is still true today. Some of us feel a terrible need to be on other’s backs, all the time.
Spend any time at all listening to the cranky punditry of cable news shows — or watch dynamics in office meetings, or the classroom, or in a family — and you will notice that some people just won’t let other people alone. They are small Pharisees, self-assigned social and moral arbiters of their little worlds, and they run on continual loops of critique and goalpost-moving from which they seem unable to escape. They seem to dislike anyone whose thoughts do not mirror their own. One suspects they do not really like anyone much, at all.
They can run their loops for a long time, too, because even as some realize there is no pleasing them, and walk away, other suckers come along who are game to try.
Jesus understands the thread of prejudiced misanthropy that connects all the critiques coming from such folk, and because he does, he doesn’t even try to please them. He ignores them and follows his calling, straight into the pastures, in pursuit of all the dirty, lost, or meandering sheep, because he wants the sheep to be with him, not apart, and not stuck in those endless loops to nowhere.
He goes where they are, eats in their midst, plays with them, and gains their trust, and then teaches them the way to go, so they might never be separated from him, again. He does not try to demean the sheep, or trick them into error; the parameters he lays out to them never change, and there is no confusion. There is only the simple truth that he wants them with him, and not off on their own, vulnerable to the jaws of death.
To that pursuit, Jesus is happy to suffer the sneers of the insufferable ones who must pass out loud and continual judgment, who are miserable and unhappy, partly because their truth keeps changing, and because they are too proud to be tamed and led to safety.
But the thing is, Jesus would be happy to shepherd them, too, if they would only permit it. Because he wants everyone, and invites everyone in.
The shepherd does not pursue and try to save what he hates. Only what he likes, and values, and loves.
Imagine that. Jesus likes you. He really likes you, so much that he came in pursuit of you.
Remember it, the next time you think you don’t matter.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come into the deserts and craggy hills, and all of the places that we so frequently get ourselves lost or hung up. Help us to respond to your friendship, and to recognize your pursuit as both a compliment and an invitation to graze in your pastures, for our safety, and our good. Help us to understand that when we are no longer lost we become, in fact, free. Amen.
Aleteia is bringing you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.
Read also: God wants to sing to us a lullaby