Mt 21:23-27 Pleasing Everyone
Lord, increase my faith for I long to see your face!
There is a famous little story about those who try to please everyone.
A man and his son were going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride it?” So the man put the boy on the donkey and they went on their way. But as soon as they passed a group of men, they overheard one say, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.” So the man took his son off the donkey and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.” So the man came up with a brilliant idea. He and his son would ride the donkey. They continued towards the market with a smile on their face. But as soon as they passed another group of people they heard them say, “Poor creature. Why don’t they give that donkey a break?”
Moral of the story: try to please all, and you will please none.
“Teach me your ways, O Lord” (Ps 25:4). I don’t know about you, but I have found myself at times trying to please people – too many people - and at the expense of my own peace of mind and at the expense of their formation. There are many who approach me seeking to cut through this or that line, seeking shortcuts to this or that ministry, or searching to cut through the bureaucracy of Church structures and systems. And in the end, what happens? A mess. Try to please all, and you will please none. Actually, it is even worse than that: try to please all, and they will be nasty. I know…mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I have learned a valuable lesson.
The Chief priests and the elders wanted a shortcut. They were seeking a favor. They wanted to know Jesus without going through the nuisance or bother of following him, listening to him and speaking to him. Just like so many today, they don’t want to bother with marriage preparation or baptismal classes; they would love to skip the retreats for Confirmation or RCIA. They just want to get it done with and do the minimum that is required. But in the end, they will not be able to recognize the Lord in any of it. The hidden desire to know, love and follow Christ will be completely lost.
In other words, the child will not be seen again after baptism; the teenager will disappear or may lose his/her faith after Confirmation; and a couple will most likely, at best, struggle after their wedding.
Look and see what happened to the Pharisees, scribes, chief priests and elders. Very few took the time to listen and learn. Very few converted.
One delightful person recently mentioned to me that the Confession line was part of the process of conversion. That is, to sacrifice your time for the Lord is part of the process of repentance. I never thought of it like that and this person is absolutely correct. How often do we consider filling out the proper paperwork, going to the classes and/or speaking to a priest as part of the Sacrament? If we think about it, it is. It is all about following him, listening to him and speaking to him.
This third Sunday of Advent is about moving towards the star. No shortcuts are allowed. Every valley, every mountain, every trial and difficulty, every joy and consolation is a gift from the Lord. Seek the Lord throughout the journey and your arrival will be more enriching and rewarding.
Even the Lord took the time to be born; to be educated by the Pharisees and scribes, and ride a donkey for it was part of the process and his journey.