December 16, 2007 Year A
Third Sunday of Advent
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146:6-10
James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Theme: Or Shall We Look for Another?
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today forever!
I'm not sure why. Occasionally our youngest child will ask, "Do you love me, OR?" At first this was disconcerting. Then we began to make it playful by responding, "NO ORs!" Any Mom and Dad would respond the same way. Behind almost every man on death row is a mother who still affectionately calls him her boy. There are just not any 'ORs' in her love for her boy.
Jesus' response to John's OR was meant to both affirm and assure him. Facing a certain and soon death, John needed both. He had faced the hostility and ridicule of an unbelieving nation for several years. His preaching had taken him to the heights of political power. Reproving Herod not only for adultery but also for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison. (Luke 3:18) This effectively brought a predictable end to John's exhortations and preaching of the good news to the people.
It was during this time of imprisonment that news reached John about all the deeds of the Christ. Probably wishing he still had a ringside seat to Jesus' ministry, John found his influence decreasing as Jesus' ministry and message was increasing.
And then what happened to John also happens to all of us. What if I have believed in vain? Is Jesus really who I think he is, OR should I look for another. It was John who had pointed his prophetic finger at the Son of God and proclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" It was John who emphatically said, "He who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry." It is this same John who fearlessly 'made straight the paths of the Lord' who now sitting on death row wants to hear it right from the Lord's mouth; ARE YOU HE WHO IS TO COME, OR SHALL WE LOOK FOR ANOTHER?"
Now John, missing the solitude of the desert seeks solitude from him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. It was in the desert John found the contemplation of the holy fulfilling and life changing. Such contemplation had left him speechless in the dark watches of the night. But when the sun rose in the morning, the people gathered to him at the Jordan to hear gracious words from a holy heart.
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. The natural days are growing shorter. Darkness is more prominent. The festive hours of Christmas seem farther away than we first entered into Advent. It is with John the Baptist we long to hear the words of faith and hope and joy.
IS JESUS REALLY THE LONG EXPECTED MESSIAH, OR SHALL WE LOOK FOR ANOTHER? The world in solemn silence waits. We wait.
Jesus, not offended or defensive answers John's inquiry. "Tell John what you have seen and heard. Take word back to him. Do it now. Do it quickly. Tell John the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the poor have the good news preached to them." The expectation of the Prophet and the Psalmist finds fulfillment in today's gospel.
He is the same Jesus today. He is always the babe in the manger. He is always the healer from Galilee. He is always the Savior on the Cross. He is always the One who sits at the Father's right hand. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever! There is no looking for another. There are no ORs.
We rejoice today that He who is the very image of the Father will fill the empty crèche again. With Mary we ponder in our hearts anew the ancient news: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, open my eyes to see your glory; open my ears to hear your teaching; make my tongue sing for joy, and with my legs may I leap for joy. You are forever the same, help me to never desire another; you alone have the words of life. Amen.