We are into the third week of the Advent season. Advent is a season of waiting, expectation, and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. But who is this Messiah? John the Baptist seems to have certain ideas.
In today’s Gospel, after hearing what Jesus did, John sends his question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” But John the Baptist knows perfectly well who Jesus is. So, why is he questioning? Well, remember, John is in prison! The Messiah is not saving John from prison, and the one who is supposed to take away the sin from the world is not taking away the sin away from Herod. Would you blame John the Baptist or anybody to doubt in such situation?
After hearing the question, Jesus does not answer directly but tells John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear 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 news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:4-6) We see that the doubt of John the Baptist is pointing people to pay attention to see and hear Jesus.
We can be like John the Baptist. When we are moved by the Holy Spirit, we vow to follow God. Or when we receive blessings, we are sure Jesus is our Saviour. When we face disasters, we question if Jesus really is the Saviour. We question why bad things happen, why God is not there for us, and doubt even if God really exists. We tend to think God only exists when we are in good times. That is our preconceived idea of our Saviour and why we are in doubt when things do not go our way.
Nevertheless, being in doubt may get us closer to God. John the Baptist may be in doubt but his questioning calls the people to pay attention to hear and see, find God’s grace and bring back the good news of Jesus to the doubter.
Doubting is part of our spiritual journey. Sometimes we do have to wait in uncertain, and anxious moments before the truth comes out.
Today is chaos in different parts of the world. War and the threat of terrorism invade our consciousness. We have our fair share of chaos causing disappointment, anxiety, fear, and anger in our own country right now. Many people question the presence of God.
Will we be able to share what we see and hear about the presence of God?
As Christians, during Advent we need to reflect on what it means to be followers of Jesus our Lord, and our seeing and hearing of our Lord.
In a sense, we all have experienced what Jesus said: 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.
Truly, if we keep our eyes and ears open, we will hear and see plenty of God’s work literally and metaphorically even in bad times. We will be able to go and tell.
Advent and this time of the year is a special time for us to share the good news and hope with others especially with those who are in doubt.
During the first Holy Week after he was elected, Pope Francis raised a few eyebrows and opened many eyes. On Holy Thursday, he visited a prison for young people where he celebrated the annual washing of the feet. Not only did he wash the feet of Catholics, he included Muslims and women. This was a big surprise for many Catholics. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope initiated a custom of going out of the Vatican one Friday a month to perform some “work of mercy.” In August, he went to a home for women recovering from prostitution, many of whom had been victims of trafficking. This, too, was an eye-opener for many people.
If someone were to ask Pope Francis, “Are you the Holy Father who was chosen for the church?” could he not answer in words much like Jesus’? We see in Pope Francis the works of love and mercy that we saw in Jesus.
For inspiration, this Advent, we need only look to examples set by Jesus and by Pope Francis. Their actions have brought comfort and healing to countless people. Their love and mercy have brought hope and joy.
What if someone were to ask us the question put to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” How would we answer?
Jesus ascended to the Father when he had completed his work on this earth. He left it to us to continue his work here. The hungry will be fed, the homeless will be sheltered, the lonely will be visited … and all will find a cause for great joy when each baptized person continues the ministry and compassion of Jesus.
As we prepare for the trip to Bethlehem, let’s perceive with Isaiah the things that make the desert seem to be a garden. People are no longer blind as they see the work of Christ in their midst. People are no longer left behind since all are welcome. Let’s begin expressing and living life with a recognition of the joy that God has brought to us this season of Advent. Then perhaps we too can be like John the Baptist – we can be a messenger sent by God to prepare others for the coming of the Lord.