24th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)
Jesus said to the crowds: “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.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
“The interpretation of this passage has been contested for centuries,” writes Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke.1 Obscure figurative language compounded with problems in source criticism create difficulties for interpreters.
A few things are certain. The characters in the parable are not in sync with one another. An interior resistance or lack of sympathy prevents one group of children from joining in the play of the other group. “Interpersonal synchronization” is lacking; the two groups are not “clicking.” The children who play the flute and sing a dirge are like comedians who deliver an uproarious tale to a deadpan audience. No one gets the punchline.
The best solution, according to Fitzmyer, is to view John, Jesus, and the disciples as the children inviting their peers to play “wedding” or “funeral.” Their contemporaries not only failed to pick up the cues to join in, but even attributed evil to the Baptist and the Christ. Their hearts lacked receptivity to the message of truth and love that challenged their age-old customs and traditions. An “us” versus “them” mentality built fortresses to repel the prophets and mar them with socially unacceptable labels.
A heart problem needs a heart solution.
Wisdom personified—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom—“is vindicated by all her children.” Each person who responds to the piping of John and Jesus returns to the bosom of the Father, through Jesus and Mary, in the Spirit of truth, and joins the growing communion of saints.
1Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke (I-IX), Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981, p. 678.