December 15, 2013 - 3rd Sunday of Advent - Year A
The Wonders of His Love
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"
John's preaching was challenging. Too much so for Herod. Herod had John taken into custody and would have put him to death except for his fear of the people who held John to be a prophet. Instead he put him in solitary confinement. The charge? John had said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife!" Straight preaching and certainly not politically correct.
John had introduced Jesus to the multitudes at the Jordan River as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is John the Baptist who baptized Jesus and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove. John said that Jesus must increase; and about himself he said, "I must decrease."
Now in prison, John the Baptist felt his very life ebbing away; the end seemed perilously soon. Rumors had it that he would soon go to his grave without his head attached. Questions raced through his heart. News from the outside brought wonder and excitement yet John felt a slight pause; a 'what if' thundered in his head. He asked if he could see some of his closest associates. Ushered in under heavily armed guards they listened to their teacher's last request. "Go to Jesus and ask him this question for me: 'Are you he who is to come, or do we look for another?' "
A Sure Word
Wrapped in the darkness of the prison, John waited for the answer to his question. The days were dark and the nights were even darker. Familiar with the words of the prophets, he may have mused on Isaiah's hopeful and joyous words we have before us today. The prophet speaks of a new Eden. Isaiah promises that the very fabric of creation will put off its wildness and dryness and like the Rose of Sharon will blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. How will this be?
The day Isaiah sees in the future is filled with the glory and majesty of the Lord. Everyone is to take inspiration from his words and begin to live with a new courage and hope: "Say to those who are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong, fear not!'" Even the blind will see again and the deaf ears will hear and the lame shall leap like a deer. To all who live in fear and pain and anguish Isaiah proclaims: "Behold your God will come and save you!"
Peter says we have a sure word of prophecy: "And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 2:19)
Peter explains that the prophecy of scripture is never a matter of one's own power, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 2:20, 21) And because this is so, we sense a joy that is the very essence of Christmas. For Christmas and all the mystery it holds for us and for our salvation came in fulfillment of many prophetic words. Those words of scripture are filled with the promise of God coming among the sons and daughters of the earth as their Savior and Friend!
The Proof and More
What is the real reason John sent his disciples to ask Jesus his question? Is it because that he feared that he had been forgotten? Was it because the news dribbling into his prison cell of the great deeds of Jesus left him wondering about something? Maybe John wondered to himself and questioned why wouldn't Jesus do something miraculous for him. All John wished to do was to return to his preaching and living in the wilderness and eating his locusts dipped in wild honey.
Then the door of his cell creaked open. His disciples had returned with vital information. John stood up to receive them and to hear what they had to say. His closest disciple, we'll call him Joshua, said, "Master, Jesus sent us back to tell you what we heard and saw. Master, the blind see. The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor are among the first to hear the good news."
Tears begin to stream down the weary face of the servant of God called John the Baptist. Looking into Joshua's eyes he knows that there is something else.
"What is it, Joshua?"
"There's one more thing, Master. Jesus told us to tell you also blessed is he who takes no offense at me."
And the greatest prophet in Israel since Elijah fell to his knees bathed in the wonders of the love of him he knew to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com