Daily Reflection
January 3rd, 2000
Carolyn Comeaux Meeks
Grants Administration Office
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1 John 3:22-4:6
Psalms 2:7-8, 10-11
Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John (the Baptist) had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee… 

You were cousins, you two.  You knew each other, in a sense, from even before you were born.  Your mothers, each in her own way, were given you as special gifts from God.  Your fathers were faithful and God-conscious men, aware of an interior spiritual life and an external world of plans and problems and duties.  Maybe you played together as toddling tots.  Maybe you even shared your unique, quirky perspectives at those perceptive and precocious stages of growth before “the real world” of adolescence and adulthood kicked in.   Maybe Jesus, you “cut your teeth” on musings with John before that famous account of your conversation with the elder authorities in synagogue during your twelfth year of life. 

And so my heart pauses after the very first sentence in today’s gospel from Matthew.  The text says so little, really.  But it doesn’t just say “he went.”  So I stop and look again.  I wish I knew more:  How did you feel, Jesus, you who had a dear friend in this prophet—not only a common love of God to connect you, but ties of blood and ties of faith.  You withdrew?  You went into your cave?  But you were in general a take-charge kind of guy, weren’t you?  Were you stunned?  Frightened?  Confused about your call?  Were you thinking, if it happened to John, it could happen to me….?

[Straying from Matthew’s text, I go over and check into Luke’s and Mark’s gospels, for their take on this same point in Jesus’ journey.  Hmmm … John is behind bars for criticizing Herod.  The eventual consequences will be John’s death by beheading due to the manipulations of Herod’s behind-the-scenes lover…]

Well, this scenario is enough to make even the most brave among us stop and ponder.  And feel.  Jesus, you paused, however briefly, to take it all in—John’s calling, his faithfulness to it, and your own.  You paused to feel, to reflect, to ponder, to discern, and finally to say Yes.  In Mark, as in Matthew, you begin your ministry upon John’s arrest.  You take up where John left off.  Matthew adds the flourish of your consciously and conscientiously fulfilling Jewish prophecy first.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see if they belong to God, because many false prophets have appeared in the world. 
For there is in you One greater than there is in the world.
Those others belong to the world; that is why theirs is the language of the world, and why the world listens to them.       (from John the Evangelist)

Jesus, you were friends with this other John, the one called the Beloved Disciple, the one who survived you.  This John, the leader of a nascent community of Christians in the early years following your own execution, even took care of your Mother.

You were so Present, after your death, to John and his community that he here reassures his listeners that their experience of your Living Reality can be counted on to anchor them amid the many voices and vices of the world’s prophets.  You were not an abstract thought, or a nice mushy feeling of inspiration, or a set of teachings with You for a mascot.  No:  You were most definitely a Who—a living Person who abided with and in the faith community led by John.

* * * * * * * *

On this day after the day after the start of the new year (new century, new millennium), we have recently had our share of prophets false and true.  Literally, since midnight ushered in the Year 2000 just 48 hours ago, we have been discovering which of the prognostications about electrical shortages and computer meltdowns have been true, and which false.  

The truly prophetic is any voice that has called us to live in trust of the One whom John the Baptist grew up with, the One whom John the Evangelizer knew both before and after his death, the one whom Mary mothered and Matthew followed—the One whose truth anchors our own, and in whose continuing Presence we abide.  

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