Paul Brian Campbell, S.J.
Cornelius & Cyprian are linked together in the First Eucharistic Prayer. As 3rd Century bishops, they not only had to deal with persecution but also with what to do with those who denied their faith during those dark days. Both took a moderate line, allowing apostates to return to the Eucharist after an appropriate penance and both were challenged by those who claimed the Church had no power to forgive this offense. Synods and Councils later backed their position.
Today’s Gospel follows immediately after the scene (not in our Mass Readings) where Jesus answers the question from the imprisoned John the Baptist about whether he is truly the Messiah. Jesus praises John, “Of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John.”
Jesus moves to criticize the cynicism and self-contradictory attitudes of those who reject both John and him. They have closed their ears and want to hear nothing and learn nothing. Jesus compares them to children in a city square calling to their playmates. He often proposes children as models of helpfulness, openness and dependence, but children can also be moody and fickle!
Jesus then turns to the fickleness of his opponents with regard to John the Baptist and himself. John’s life in the desert was austere, he ate, as we’re told elsewhere, only locusts and wild honey. They said he was mad and rejected him. Jesus came and was highly convivial, attending weddings and dining with all sorts of people. His opponents then called him a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of tax collectors and sinners. He was in a no-win situation.
Jesus ends with the enigmatic statement, “But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” John and Jesus can be described as children of Wisdom, whose origin is God himself. Those who can see the hand of God in their lives are also children of Wisdom. Those who consistently refuse to see God aren’t.
As children of our own generation, we have to be ready to listen with an open heart and mind. We can’t expect God to speak to us only in ways that are easy to hear. God may speak to us through a saint or a sinner, through a conservative or a liberal, through a professor or an illiterate, through a neighbor or a foreigner, through an older person or through a child sitting in the marketplace.