“When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” (Matthew 11: 2-3).
I sense the anxiousness, even the impatience John the Baptist is experiencing. He is imprisoned knowing that he will probably be executed, and he has to know, Are you the One?
We have the tendency to get impatient at this time of the year. We all want it to be Christmas, now! Youngsters are anticipating what they will receive Christmas morning. Will there be a mountain of wrapped gifts underneath the Christmas tree? Adults attend parties, exchange gifts in advance of Christmas day. We have trouble waiting. Why is that?
John the Baptist was impatient also. The Messiah he prophesied was here. John baptized Him and proclaimed His coming. So how could it be that John is imprisoned? Herod liked listening to John, but Herodias feared that John’s preaching would cause her to lose influence with her husband. John waits. When will his cousin from Nazareth fully embrace His calling as the Messiah and free him?
Jesus receives John’s message. John questioning reveals his impatience and possible doubts as to whether Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is not acting like a Messiah. Jesus replies to the anxious John that he is doing what a messiah should be doing. The issue is not that Jesus is not fully embracing His messianic role; the issue is that he is not being the Messiah that John wants Jesus to be. We do this also. We have certain expectations and desires which we want satisfied but Jesus fails to come through and meet these perceived needs. The Messiah was to be a conquering Messiah exacting vengeance on the peoples and tribes who had caused the Jewish people suffering and humiliation. The Messiah was to establish justice in Israel and rule from the throne in Jerusalem. Today, Jesus is to settle disagreements, correct perceived injustices, subjugate those who are different, shower me will accolades, good fortune, provide an easy-going life. That is my Messiah.
Jesus did not come into the World to be a personal Messiah. The World still suffers from many of the same maladies that plagued it during Jesus’ earthly life; poverty, crime, sexism, racial hatreds, dishonesty. Jesus did not come to solve our problems. He has given us the talents to accomplish problem solving ourselves. Jesus came to address the problems that affect all people of all time; sin and death. Jesus is not a trouble-shooter. Jesus is our Redeemer. A Redeemer who promises hope and salvation.
John the Baptist was a human who was plagued by the many fears and anxieties that trouble us. At times he could be anxious and shortsighted. Hope counters anxiousness and shortsightedness. On this Gaudete Sunday we are able to rejoice because we are a people who have true hope, the hope of the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ once again. We reinforce this hope by celebrating Jesus’ first coming as a baby born to a poor couple sheltered in a stable in a dusty village subjugated by a conquering army. Hope informs us that no matter how slow, confusing, frustrating or frightening life’s events are, in the end goodness will triumph. We have a Redeemer who keeps promises and because of this we rejoice as we wait.
During these remaining days let’s focus on being patient and ask for the graces to remain patient. The presents will be wrapped and under the tree on Christmas morning. Take the opportunity to discover something new about your family, friends, your community. New discoveries are presents. The Advent season will soon end so allow yourselves time to reflect about Jesus’ coming again and what actions you can take to be prepared. Be joyful for the day is coming when “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: 5).