"We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep" (Luke 7:33).
Reality is complicated and many-sided. One sure sign that dialogue is impossible is when people can only think and speak in simple, black-and-white terms. Something is either right or wrong, good or bad. Truth is more often the balance between extremes. Intelligence, it has been said, is the ability to hold two contrary ideas in your mind at the same time while you sort and distinguish the many nuances that alone convey actual experience.
Jesus addresses his critics as children who reject both happy and sad games. The scribes and Pharisees reject Jesus because he eats and drinks, but they also rejected John the Baptist because he fasted. They are both closed-minded and small-minded. They don't want dialogue because they don't want the truth.
We see this paralysis in our political debates, reduced to shouting and simplistic sound bites. Real problems require adult discussion, distinctions and nuance, not childish pouting. Wherever there is controversy, whether in the church or in society, genuine dialogue is needed to move forward, and this takes patience, intelligence and discernment.
Lord, give us leaders whose values are deep and whose minds and hearts are open to the process of listening and sharing with others, especially those who disagree. The solutions that emerge from community discernment are always stronger than demagoguery or dogmatic absolutes.
Dialogue is another name for hospitality — the capacity to welcome the stranger, explore differences and find unity. We all emerge from such a process enlarged and generous, less fearful and more open. This is the joy of the Gospel.