There is a growing rift between Jesus and his beloved cousin John who is the first to hail Jesus as Messiah, baptizes him, and sets his feet on the path of ministry. It is not a rift of love but a vast difference in their form of ministry. John has withdrawn into the wilderness, living an ascetic, fasting way of life. His guidance to others is a stern “Repent!” “Change your ways!” “Beware the wrath to come!”
He had expected Jesus to minister in the same way. At first Jesus makes repentance his main focus. (See Matthew 3:2.) But his approach changes. He mingles with people in the villages and cities, reaches out, heals, comforts, transforms, feasts, and fellowships with “sinners.” He too calls for change but within God’s love, not wrath. This troubles John. He sends his disciples to ask Jesus why he is not fasting the way John does. In his reply, Jesus for the first time speaks of himself as the “bridegroom,” implying that joyful abundant love and celebration is one of the main signs of a transformed life. (See Matthew 9:14-15.)
Now in prison, John has serious doubts. Is Jesus really the Messiah after all? Jesus simply reports the facts: the blind see, the deaf hear, the poor are comforted. The realm of God is at work.
Then in today’s reading, Jesus reflects on the irony that John is criticized for his fasting while Jesus is criticized for feasting with outcasts.
The love of God calls us to feast with the “bridegroom” and to welcome the outcast into that feasting. We are called to dance with “sinners” and weep for their pain. These are not opposites; they are as one in the heart and realm of God.
God of love, help us this day to see through your eyes the light and the dark around us, and to hear your call to dance and also to heal. Amen.
The reading in Genesis transitions our attention from Abraham to his son Isaac. When Isaac comes of age, Abraham sends a servant to find a wife for him. When the servant meets Rebekah, her kind hospitality convinces him that she is the one. Isaac marries her, and the readings in the psalm and Song of Solomon celebrate nuptial love as a symbol of God’s love. Paul in Romans reflects on the human condition. We desire to do what is right, but we fall short over and over again. What is the solution? God delivers us through Jesus Christ. In Matthew, Jesus emphasizes his intimate relationship with God and invites all who are weary to enter into Christ’s rest.
Read Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67. Which of these or other biblical stories model for you the relationship between God and humanity?
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. How have you seen God at work in the way loving relationships have transformed you?
Read Romans 7:15-25a. When have you refused to participate in Communion because you did not feel worthy? How might participating in Communion in times of strife or sin help you be reconciled to God and others?
Read Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. The life of faith holds many ironies. How do you hold together the seeming opposites of Jesus’ and John’s focus in their ministries? of seeking to be yoked to God when your burden is too heavy?
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