Is 35:1-6, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?”
This is the question that the incarcerated John the Baptist sent to Jesus through his disciples. Could it be that the Baptist was losing his faith in Jesus as the Messiah because of his unjust imprisonment by King Herod? Was he discouraged because he was not seeing the visible manifestations of the kingdom of God that he expected?
We can speculate many things about him and his faith while in prison but one thing that we glean from the scriptures about John the Baptist was that he was always pointing all persons to our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving truth. At the inception of his public ministry, when he was getting popular and gaining followers, he freely pointed to Jesus and said to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29). These his disciples abandoned him and followed Jesus.
John refused to draw to himself the crowd that thought he was the Messiah, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.” He found his joy in always pointing to Jesus and deferring to Him in all things, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms voice” (Jn 3:28-29).
Thus, the Baptist was acting according to his character when he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?” He would not presume to convince them on his own. He pointed them to Jesus the very same way he had pointed Herod to the truth about marriage. He was in prison for giving witness to the truth about marriage to King Herod who had married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mk 6:18). He never ceased giving witness to Jesus and His truth to all persons and in all conditions no matter the cost or consequences.
On His part, Jesus responded by affirming and commending the Baptist because he did not just wait to point out the Messiah when He came, but he was steadfast in his witness to Him. Jesus highlighted the Baptist’s unwavering fidelity, “What did you go out to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Imagine the joy in the heart of the incarcerated John to experience the power of Jesus’ affirming words, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” This is the joy that is ours when we too do not just wait for Christ’s return without actually witnessing to Him and His saving truth.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Advent is not just a time to wait for Christ’s glorious return. We must also witness to Him and His saving truth while we wait patiently. Christian joy is an inner joy that comes from faithful witness to Christ in the present moment and a hopeful waiting for His glorious return, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).
We claim to be waiting for the return of the savior. But do we believe the truth alone or do we make up our own convenient truth? Do we settle for our own warped opinions even when it contradicts divine revelation and Tradition? Are we reeds who sway any and every way by current fads? Do we allow the fear of change to prevent us from believing the truth? Have we taken offense at the Lord and His ways of acting in our lives and in this world that we do not receive and hold on to His truths anymore?
As we wait for the return of the Savior, do we point others to Christ by witnessing to His truth in word and deed? How are we actually helping others to know and love Christ more? Are we sources of hope to those who are confused and discouraged in their own spiritual journey? Do we abandon our witness to Christ and His truth because we are afraid of being called names or ostracized? Can we be like St. John the Baptist and uphold God’s laws about marriage being between a man and a woman in a permanent and life-giving union always open to the gift of new life?
As people who claim to be waiting for the return of Jesus, the faithful witness, are we also ready to suffer as we give witness to Jesus? Are we waiting for more conducive conditions to be His faithful witness? Did John the Baptist ever wait for safer and more conducive moments to point all to Christ? Didn’t Jesus also call us to more heroic witness when He said, “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (John)?” St. James also calls us to be ready to imitate the faithful witness of the prophets in difficult moments, “Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).
Let us reclaim our vocation to be witnesses to Christ and His saving truth as we wait for Him. Remember that He comes to judge all of us by His truth and not by our ideas or public opinions, “Behold, the judge is at the gate.” Instead of being afraid of the judgements of others or waiting for better conditions, let us prepare for the judgement of Christ by witnessing to Him.
May the grace of each Eucharist help us to be Christ’s faithful witness now as we wait in joyful expectation for His glorious return. This is how we too will experience that joy that comes from hearing Him commend and affirm us in our hearts.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!