– Using questions
found in Scripture can make for a very
enriching prayer experiences. And my favorite is to
listen to Jesus ask me the question he once
asked Simon Peter, “Who do people say that I am?” And then I try to respond, and then have to answer
the more important question Jesus asks, “But who
do you say that I am?” And after some time of prayer and trying to answer
that question, I’ll turn that question around, and I’ll ask Jesus, “And
who do you say that I am?” It makes for a very fruitful,
enriching prayer time. Today’s Gospel has an
interesting question, John the Baptist
asks Jesus a question through his disciples, “Are
you the one who is to come, “or should we look for another?” Now John is in prison,
and he struggles because Jesus doesn’t really
seem to fit the profile of the Messiah that
he’s been trying to prepare God’s people for. Last Sunday, from
this same Gospel, John the Baptist had
some very strong words for some Pharisees and scribes, “You brood of vipers,
who warned you to flee “from the coming wrath? “The one who is coming
after me is mightier than I, “he will clear his
threshing floor “and gather his
wheat into his barn, “but the chaff he will burn
with unquenchable fire.” John pointed the crowd to Jesus
as the one who is to come. Jesus is the reason John
was sent into the world. And now John is in prison and he’s asking, probably
painfully asking, “Are you the one who is to come, “or should we be
looking for another?” Oh my goodness, ouch. John figures Jesus was going
to make sweeping changes, justice would rule, what is
wicked would be cut down, what is good would be purified, what remained would
be made righteous before the eyes of God, peace and blessings would
be observed everywhere. Plenty of Messianic prophesies would have supported
this profile. John’s question comes across
almost as a bit of a complaint, like Jesus isn’t measuring up, almost like an accusation. Surely in John there’s
something confusing here, something’s missing. Yet Jesus points out that
he does fit the profile which includes the
Messianic prophecy found in today’s first
reading from Isaiah. Jesus says, “Go and tell
John what you hear and see, “the blind regain their
sight, the lame walk, “lepers are cleansed, the deaf
hear, the dead are raised, “and the poor have the good
news proclaimed to them.” Clearly the Savior, the Messiah was gonna
be less heavy-handed and much more humble
in his manifestation beginning with lowly Bethlehem, extending throughout his
nomadic preaching days, and most obvious
in deadly Calvary. That in this world, Jesus
is going to be at work lifting up the lowly more
than casting down the proud. In the next life Jesus
will make all things right. But it will be
hard to trust this as we wait for that day. So Jesus adds a Beatitude
in today’s Gospel to the famous Beatitudes
found in the same Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed is the one who
takes no offense at me.” “John, blessed is the one
who is not scandalized “when I don’t meet
his expectations.” Most of us have had
a time in our life when we thought we were
doing everything right that God wanted us to do, or at least many many things, and yet life
seemingly unraveled. For example, do
you have a spouse who is neglectful of your needs, and maybe you see him
pouring more energy, or her more energy into a
hobby or a group of friends? Are you divorced
and still struggling with feelings of failure, or struggling to
find acceptance? Do you have family
fragmentation and tensions with your siblings or
maybe even your parents or your children? Do the scandals in the
Church have you wondering if the whole institutional
dimension of the Church really has the Holy Spirit
guiding it, like really? Are you wondering just how
helpful are the Sacraments? And how much of a commitment and church attendance
should we really have? When these things happen
and doubts creep in, we question our own
values sometimes, or we question those around us, or we even question God himself. How do we respond when our
vocations are frustrated like the Baptist’s vocation,
he who is the voice crying out in the desert to
prepare the way of the Lord now is silenced. He who is the
messenger sent by God to go out and prepare God’s
people is now in prison. When these kinds of
things happen like John, we can be scandalized. When life doesn’t fit
the profile anymore, and if it reaches this point, or when it reaches
this point in life, ask Jesus the question of John, “Are you the one who is to come, “or should I look for another?” So imagine being in Bethlehem, and soon we’re gonna have the
Nativity creche right here, imagine ask the infant Jesus, “Are you the one
who is to lead me “and shepherd my soul, or
should I look for another?” Or imagine being at Calvary and looking at
the crucified Lord and asking, “Are you the
one who can forgive me, “and heal my soul, or should
I be looking for another?” Or turn to our Eucharistic
Lord in the Tabernacle and ask him, “Are you the
one who can nourish me “and strengthen my soul, “or should I be
looking for another?” Belonging to Jesus, if this
question makes you nervous, belonging to Jesus does
not require perfection. We don’t have to be
perfect to belong to him. What we need is to be
engaged and honest. With very few exceptions
in the Gospel, those who were healed,
the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, they were
people who went toward Jesus and described their needs, with plaintive cries, and the poor who had
good news proclaimed. John experienced poverty. His voice was silenced. What poverty are you
experiencing this day? Would you dare to ask Jesus,
“Jesus, are you the one, “or should I look for another?” I’ve used this question
in my personal prayer time and I have found
Jesus responding, and I can personally
testify in my life Jesus is the one who
can lead and shepherd, forgive and heal,
nourish and strengthen.