The following Reflection is by Paul Clogher
Waiting for the Unexpected
In Pasolin's The Gospel According to Saint Matthew John the Baptist appears as a wild but distinctly un-biblical figure in appearance. This, perhaps, is due to his lack of biblical dishevelment. He is not the wild man of biblical art, nor is he entirely familiar to us. Instead, like the people on whom Pasolini focused his camera, he bears the appearance of a man of the land. He is a rural prophet speaking to a rural people. In contrast, the Pharisees and Sadducees who listen to him appear as well dressed, clean shaven men of the city. They misunderstand the words he says, and so an ultimately fatal sequence of events ensues.
Naturally, this scene is often interpreted politically. The masses, represented by John and Jesus, are oppressed by the classes. But this hypothesis is one which forgets the meaning of both the Gospel of Matthew and Pasolin's film. Pasolini's style is full of the unexpected. Matthew is equally surprising. His Christ is one who emerges from unexpected surrounds. Pasolini's stark, austere setting reflects Matthew's assertion that God can raise children of Abraham from these stones. In this time of waiting, we ought to always expect the unexpected. Indeed, the incarnation exemplifies this. The Son of God emerged from the stones of human existence and it is the gravity of this realisation which allows us to understand John's impatience with those who listen to him. We are not passively waiting. On the contrary, we are actively anticipating.