Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent: mid-week reflection

In our Gospel reading this evening St John the Baptist sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus the question: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'

It would be easy, from this, to make the mistake of thinking that John is having doubts. He is at this time in prison. He surely knows his time is short. King Herod may be unwilling to kill him, but Herodias the queen hates him for speaking out and saying their marriage is unlawful, meaning that it is no marriage at all, and she is therefore someone living in adultery with a man who is not her husband, a public sinner, and no queen at all. Such a powerful enemy will eventually find a way to bring about his death; and sadly we know that this will all too soon prove to be the case.

And sitting in prison, seeing the end of his life drawing near, we could easily imagine that the one who knew it was his task to prepare the way of the Lord would begin to wonder if he had indeed fulfilled his mission in life. Was he right to name Jesus the Christ? Can this man who preaches peace be the Messiah of God? Is such a man the one who not only will lead his people to freedom, but bring all people's to kneel before the one true God? And so he sends two of his followers to Jesus.

But it would be wrong to think John doubts. This is the man who said of Jesus: 'he must grow greater and I must grow lesser' and 'behold the lamb of God, the one who takes away the sins of the world.' He not only knows Jesus is the Christ, his words describing Jesus as the lamb of God indicates the he knows the Christ must suffer and die, for that is what lambs do in Judaism. He understands that this Christ will be a suffering Messiah.

No, John does not doubt; and he does not want his disciples to doubt either. And this is why he sends them to Jesus. They arrive as Jesus is performing many great acts of power. They witness for themselves the miracles, that 'the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.' Such acts show that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and that they need have no doubt that is indeed who he is.

St John the Baptist sent his followers to Jesus that they might know that the Christ had indeed come. And we learn the same thing in our reading of the Sacred Scriptures: that the second person of the Blessed Trinity did indeed come and dwell among us. More, we learn that he will come again. Advent is the season when we ponder deeply the first so as to better make it part of our lives so that we will be ready when he comes again. Advent is the time when through prayer and the reading of scriptures we ask for ourselves the question that St John sent his followers to ask: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' And our God-given answer is that he was indeed to the one who was to come; and that we need expect no other, but only that he will come again. Amen.

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