Is 35:1-6a,10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
3rd Sunday in Advent
“Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Apparently, even John the Baptist had his doubts.
Throughout the entirety of Christian tradition, John the Baptist is protrayed as Jesus’ advance man. His whole ministry is framed as the prelude to Jesus’ own. John the baptist himself says, in the gospel of John, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” when Jesus walks towards him. Other than Mary, who but John the Baptist could have been more rock solid in his faith in Jesus?
It’s easy to forget that John’s ministry was independent of Jesus’ and began well before it. Perhaps for a time Jesus of Nazareth was a disciple of John the Baptist. Furthermore, even the minimalist description of John the Baptist the scriptures give us suggests that he was a prophet very much in the mold of Elijah – he lives in the desert, wears the roughest of clothing, lives off the land (locusts and wild honey to be specific) and proclaims a message of repentence replete with images of fire and brimstone. A “prophet’s prophet”, most would’ve said.
And then came Jesus. Coming from a place that was not known for its’ prophets. From a working class-family, likely devout but by no means exceptional. He liked parties, wasn’t overly concerned with the specific tenets of the Torah, preaching and living a message of forgiveness and reconciliation much more so than a message of harsh repentance. It’s not hard for me to imagine that John, a prophet cut from the Old Testament mold, might have had some trouble wrapping his head around this very unconventional Messianic candidate.
Jesus’ answer to John’s question is simple: Look and see. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good new brought to them.” Could anyone performing such beneficent and wonderful deeds possibly not be from God?
In an age when many of the traditional ways of understanding God and religious faith seem to be crashing down around us, when more and more people find it difficult to connect wtih formal religious worship,perhaps it’s time for all of us to consider Jesus’ words to John once again. Where do we see the wondrous deeds being performed today? Who is it that gives the world hope for he future? Where is there healing and the promise of eace? Who is bringing good news to the poor today?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
To locate book-length versions of my writings, click here: http://store.pastoralplanning.com/maroforsciin.html