3rd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 36:1-6, 10   James 5:7-10   Matthew 11:2-11

Immaculate ConceptionIn last Sunday’s gospel reading we saw John the Baptist, who, as a child was called by God to prepare the way for the Son of man, the Messiah.  John’s call was “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.  John is seen as a brave and courageous man who stood up to the standards of society.  He left all behind him and went out into the wilderness to live with barely the basics of life to sustain him.  Criticism and opposition did not bother him.  His message was stark and he needed none of the props considered essential for communication.  His warnings were for his peers and for the authorities.  He became an item of curiosity and, remarkably he was promoting someone other than himself, one far greater than himself.  That was in Chapter 3 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. 

Today we read from Chapter 11 of St Matthew and the character in the reading is the same John the Baptist.  He is described by none other than Jesus himself – a description which is powerful and unique.  John the Baptist, say Jesus is “a prophet and much more than a prophet ……. Of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen”.

John the Baptist was now in prison and it was he who sent some of his followers to Jesus to verify that He, Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of Man. “Have we got to wait for someone else?”  Jesus tells them to go back and remind John of the signs that the prophet Isaiah foretold, signs of the coming of the Kingdom and “the coming of your God”; “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, the tongues of dumb sing for joy …”

In the nine chapters of Matthew’s Gospel between these two accounts Matthew recounts Jesus opening the eyes of two blind men (9:27), healing the paralytic (9:6), cleansing a leper (8:3) and giving speech to the man who was dumb (9:33).  In Chapter 10 Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles (10:5-15) to bring Peace to the houses of Israel and to announce the Good News to the poor.  What more evidence would John need?!

We might ask why did John need to check on Jesus to verify that He was truly the Holy One of God?  Was he not fully convinced that the one he foretold and prepared for was the One? Perhaps he, being in prison, was feeling down and depressed and being tempted to give up.  Yes, we can understand that sort of thing! John was human.  That’s why we are able to identify with him 

We can sometimes miss the signs of God’s reign among us, in our world; the newly converted who keep coming to Christian Faith, the brave ones who overcome disabilities and disadvantages, the courageous ones who speak out the truth even in face of danger, the poor who accept their lot with a smile, and gratitude for what they have been given

The final part of the message that Jesus sent back to John was “Happy is the one who does not lose faith in me.” Despite the way he suffered and was imprisoned John did not lose Faith.  Humble man that he was, his great desire was for himself to decrease in stature and importance so as allow space for the Presence of the Lord to increase in the world and in the hearts and lives of all.