“To what will I compare this generation?” How would you answer?
These are the words any wise and thoughtful person would ask of their generation, and certainly it was a question of Jesus to the people of his day. He lived in a troubled world, like most other societies and times of history.
To answer, he paints a picture of children in the market place. Not dissimilar to a school playground of our own day, children clustering in small groups. The need to belong is reinforced by the determination to not be like the other group.
Jesus saw examples of children in make believe play. Some like a band, all playing flutes expecting others to respond yet no one would dance. Some play acting a funeral, expecting others to participate. We wailed like those professional mourners but you didn’t join in.
It wasn’t a happy good fun community. It was a divided, isolating place, a broken community.
He becomes pointed in his observation. He sees not only external breakdown, but a non functioning society that develops a matching mentality. It becomes negative, critical, cynical and locked into its rut. He quotes two revealing examples:
On the one hand he observed the communities reaction to the message and life style of John the Baptist. They were critical of his austere life style and accused him of having a demon.
On the other hand, when Jesus lived a contrary life style, of abundance and goodwill, they accuse him of gluttony and drunkedness. This cynical community will find fault with anything.They will call black white and white black.
When a society is divided, it loses its morale and exacerbates the problem.
Everything is perceived as wrong and our divisions grow wider.
If you look at the reading sheet you will notice that the reading comes in two paragraphs. But there is a third that in todays has been omitted. In the omitted paragraph, Jesus notes several other cities that are just like the one he is talking about. He even makes reference to the well-known city of Sodom.
The negative, cynical attitude impacts dreadfully upon the people and without a change, without repentance, without discovering a new way the community and its city are more than likely to fall.
Jesus the Healer
And so the teaching of Jesus proceeds in the second of our paragraphs in the reading sheet. The connection between the health or lack of it is vital for a peoples wellbeing and welfare. It is a crucial spiritual truism. A simple attitude of faith that is necessary for the rebuilding of a society around a positive intent for life.
Jesus emphasizes this by pointing out it is not the most sophisticated intellectual theory that is necessary. It is really a simple awakening to ones union with God. Jesus is our mentor, the one who awakens us to the fullness of Gods intent for creation. It’s a simple trusting relationship with God, but for practical purposes one we foster through union with Jesus. He puts it so clearly, and appealingly:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Employing the wonderful old farming image of oxen or bullock, joined in team to share the heavy load, he suggests we yoke ourselves to Jesus and from his life learn his way. Of course the image is pictured externally but the union is actualized in our interior mind and spirit.
The ‘team’ nature of this image is a wonderful reminder that life is enabled and enhanced in community. It is the opposite of the negative divided and isolating community he was witnessing in his local market place.