By Sr Rose Rolling
The second-century Roman poet Juvenal, in his poem Satire X, writes that “two things only the people anxiously desire – bread and circuses”. The phrase “bread and circuses” was devised to describe how the politicians of Ancient Rome maintained peace and popularity through distraction. Distraction revolved around distributing free food and providing free entertainment like gladiatorial games, chariot races and theatre shows. These freebies acted like a sedative or anaesthetic on the population, wooing them into a comatose-like state.
In the first section of our Gospel passage today, Jesus rebukes a generation of people who exhibit what we could call a bread-and-circuses attitude towards religion. Jesus recalls their attitude: “We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t be mourners.” This spiritual sickness was not new, nor confined to the secular authorities, for it had afflicted the prophets of Israel generations before. In our first reading today, 700 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah voices God’s lament