Too strict, not strict enough. That’s the judgment in public opinion Jesus and disciples faced in their day, today’s Advent reading from Matthews’ gospel seems to say. That’s often the way our church is looked on in the marketplace today.
Public opinion then– Jesus likens it to “children in the marketplace”– saw him and his disciples in two derogatory ways. For some, Jesus and his followers were not strict enough. Jesus ate too many meals with the wrong kind of people, among other things. Others saw this movement as too strict. Like John the Baptist, they were crazy eccentrics, out of step with the real world, the world of the marketplace.
Too strict, not strict enough. We would like to answer that criticism of our church with a better public relations campaign and all that goes with it –better catechesis, better homilies, better media, but those responses don’t seem to be on the horizon.
But listen to the promise our Old Testament readings offer:
“Those who follow you will have the light of life, O Lord.”
Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-19)