When People Are Not Satisfied With You
#WhenPeopleAreNotSatisfied is the podcast for July 9, 2017. When people are just not satisfied with whatever you do, you are in good company. Jesus and John the Baptist join you, but for much different reasons, or maybe not. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew11 #JohnInPrison #JohntheBaptist #Flute #Mourning #Funeral #Satisfied #BrokenDish #Mercy #Forgiveness #Confession #Reconciliation
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For the Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN, and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/9/2017 The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30.
Some time ago, my daughter Ruth was babysitting a child at our home. The poor little thing, as she attempted to carry her own dish to the table, it dropped and shattered on the floor. The child looked at Ruth with absolute horror in her eyes. You could tell the child was awaiting quick and harsh condemnation. Ruth swiftly picked her up, moved her out of harms way and said, “Woop, we should get you over here to make sure you aren’t cut. I will get a broom and let’s get this cleaned up. OK?” The relief the child felt was incredible. I was so proud of my daughter that she had the wisdom to keep in perspective that the child was more important than the dish. More on this later, but first we should look at our passage of Scripture from the Gospel of Matthew.
The context of our passage from Scripture is very important to understanding what is going on here. ‘We piped to you and you did not dance. We wailed, and you did not mourn.’ That is what the people said to John the Baptist and Jesus. Why am I talking about John the Baptist?
I am talking about John the Baptist because it is always important to understand quotes from Jesus within the context of the passages in which they appear, within the Gospel they appear, and within the context of the entire Bible with Jesus as the interpretive Key. So, chapter eleven, where this saying from Jesus appears, starts with John sending a message from prison to Jesus, “Are you the ONE?”
Jesus replies that he is healing the sick, raising the dead, eating with sinners and tax collectors, and preaching repentance. “Blessed are those who do not take offense at me,” is how Jesus ends his reply.
Think of that in the context of the Gospel of Matthew. John the Baptizer came and proclaimed repentance. He was a loner. He was weird, almost angry, in his call for repentance of the people to God. The response of the people to John was “why is he so serious!” In fact, he was put in prison because he called out King Herod and his scandalous marriage to his brother’s wife. In the end, John was beheaded as the result of a lustful man responding to the seductive dancing of his niece at a party. John was so demanding of repentance that Herodias demaned his head on a platter. “We piped to you and you did not dance.”
Then comes Jesus. He is the first born of all creation. In him the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. That is what the Scriptures say. Matthew says, “you shall name him Jesus, for he will forgive the people of their sins.” When Jesus comes, he is just eating and drinking with everyone: Zacchaeus, Matthew, for example, both tax collectors. Tax collectors were the lowest of the low. Sort of like the reputation of used car dealers and payday loan lenders in polyester jackets mixed with drug dealers and hedge fund managers; somewhere in there.
Jesus is going to people that no one wanted. He is laughing too loudly. He is being a little overly dramatic with giving blind people sight, giving people the ability to walk, cleansing lepers, healing those who cannot hear, and raising the dead and all. Yes, he is too flashy for the Law of God. We must do these things properly, say the religious scholars, leaders of the synagogue, and their self-proclaimed holy followers. They have been scolding Jesus something fierce. “We wailed, and you did not mourn.”
No one is satisfied.
The people who wanted to party didn’t like John. The people who wanted everyone to show up to church dressed properly didn’t like Jesus. The real problem is that the world does not like God in our lives very much. Or, I should say, the world tends to see God in ways that cause everyone to not like him.
I spoke last week about how the One who is the image of the Father comes into us in the transformed Bread of Life we call the Eucharist. Jesus and the Father are One. Jesus is the Gift that God has given to the world. I still scratch my head that the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum rejected Jesus after he healed them and renewed their lives. Yet, they did. The life of rejection that Jesus calls us to live as his disciples can be wearying. We are considered too serious by some and too loose by others. For some we do not dance enough and for others we do not mourn enough.
With this kind of situation, how can Jesus tell us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light? Just six chapters ago, he told us to love perfectly like the heavenly Father loves perfectly. How is that easy and light?
I suppose if we were doing this whole “living the Christian life” thing alone, it would be exhausting. In fact, that is what many of us are doing. We are living the Christian life like a hamster on a wheel trying to run fast enough that the Father in Heaven is happy with the speed we are going. This is not what Jesus is about. His response to John’s inquiry is informative: he takes people where they are, with all their brokenness, and restores them to fullness.
He comes to heal, restore, and renew. He does it through mercy and forgiveness of sins. If you are constantly up against it and messing up, feeling run down by the weight of trying to live up to the expectations of the world and the Ten Commandments, then have I got a sacrament for you!
It is called “Reconciliation”, but we know it as Confession. “God the Father of mercies, has reconciled you to himself through his Son Jesus Christ, and sends the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.” This restoration, renewal, and forgiveness is the whole reason Jesus came and why he sent the Holy Spirit among us. Unlike the world, which finds its power in judging us as too stiff like John the Baptist or too permissive like Jesus, the Lord himself finds his power in setting us free from the abuse that the world has to offer.
Yes, Jesus wants everyone who is laboring to come to him. He wants everyone who is heavy laden to come to him. These are the people who are seeking after God and trying to live the Christian life. To these, he lays a yoke of restoration. He gives you a burden of being forgiven when you mess up. He gives you the acceptance and love for which he created you before you do anything and especially after you try and fail. Sometimes, in our crazy lives, we are juggling so many dishes that one of them falls to the floor, crashes in a million pieces, and we stand there awaiting swift and harsh condemnation. Instead, the Lord just sweeps it up.
Yes, the Lord wants you to live a holy life, but he doesn’t want you to think you are condemned when you fail to live a holy life. When you are trying, when you labor, he is not the world telling you that you are not dancing enough or mourning enough. He is the one who comes to you and says, “Have mercy. You are forgiven. Start over. Start over. Start over.” You are more important to Jesus than any task. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian