WISDOM’S MANY FORMS
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her children.’ Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.” (Mt 11: 16-20)
True, divine “wisdom” can speak to me in various, sometimes unexpected forms and styles. It could be, for example, in music (“We piped to you…”), – of the upbeat kind meant for dancing (“…and you did not dance”), or of the “wailing,” sad kind (“we wailed, and you did not mourn”). “Wisdom” can be spoken to me through stand-up comedy, a Netflix-drama, a painting, a poorly-delivered sermon, a conversation at the water-cooler in the office. If I am quick to criticize the outer forms and persons through which “wisdom” is often revealed, dismissing their “wisdom,” I exclude myself from “her children.” But “wisdom,” as the Lord says here, “is justified by her children.” That is to say, those with the ears to hear, or true “children” of Wisdom, have benefited, and continue to benefit, from God’s voice all over the place. So Wisdom’s varied approach is “justified.”
But here’s what really surprises me about this passage: Our Lord likens Himself, along with John the Baptist, to “children sitting in the market place” among other children. He became our “playmate,” “sitting” as a child among other children, and speaking to us in terms we could understand. Thus He continues to do, speaking to us in the cultural forms and language(s) familiar to us, both at work and at play.