The people Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel are perpetually contrary. Upon seeing John the Baptist’s asceticism, they declare that he must be possessed by a demon, as though such a life could not be attained by great holiness in and of itself. Upon seeing Jesus eating and drinking in fellowship with His disciples and even with sinners, they accuse Him of gluttony and drunkenness, and they are scandalized that His mercy and generosity would extend even to these outcasts.
No logical argument could sway these hard-hearted people to believe in the goodness of Jesus and John; their stubborn cynicism will always return a bitter response to the good deeds of others. Only when they open their hearts to truly receive God will they begin to see more clearly. This requires a willingness to step beyond their comfortable, familiar ideas of God and boldly seek the Truth. It requires an openness to being surprised by God’s plans, as well as a deep trust in Him.
What can we learn from these words of Jesus? We are never going to please everyone. There will always be some comment from the peanut gallery about any decision we make, but we can’t listen to the clamor of contrary voices. What matters is listening to the still, small voice within our hearts, the voice of the Shepherd. As long as we’re pleasing God, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Image: Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew / PD-US