Sunday of the 3rd Week of Advent (Year A)(11 december 2022)
Psalm response: Lord, come and save us.
This Gospel passage from Matthew (11:2-11) is rather curious, as it almost seems that the Baptist has some doubt about Jesus and is asking a real question. It is also Matthew, though, who portrays John as asking (3:13-17) “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
I would say that our question is whether John the Baptist is sending his disciples to speak to Jesus because he himself doesn't know the answer or (since the Baptist is in prison at this point) because he is a teacher and needs to hand his own disciples on to Jesus before he dies.
In Jesus’s response to John’s disciples’ query, he first points to very concrete evidence of what he is about and then calls them to judge for themselves. What Christ calls to their attention, however, does not point to the usual idea of the military messiah, something in the line of the Maccabees: if John’s disciples were rooted in Scripture, as indeed they were, what they were witnessing was the presence of a Jesus who was clearly at the very least a man of God more than anyone in the Old Testament could ever claim to be, and this would be just the sort of messiah any disciple of John would be seeking, one more in line with Isaiah’s vision. We can assume that sooner or later (and rather the latter than the former) John’s followers did transfer their loyalty to Jesus and then discovered in depth, each and all of them, just who Jesus actually was.
That is something of a historical note, but it is not the only reason why Matthew included this passage in his Gospel. He is asking us, here in the 21st century, to judge for ourselves who Jesus is. We do not see the same miracles that Jesus pointed to, and we must look to what is going on around us in the world and understand all of that in the light of Luke 12:54-56 – and then we must look to those people who glory in the name of “Christian” today and see how they live in these times. That is where we will discover the miracles which point to what faith in Christ can work in us and through us.
There are all sorts of questions which flow from that and which call us to look at who we are and where we need to grow as Christians: Who is the God whom I seek? Who is the God I have found and let myself be radically altered by? Where is it in my personal life that God needs to come to heal us, to heal me? What is my testimony to God's presence and action? Where am I a sign of hope for others?
In every case we must answer these and other such questions by admitting that we are not the people that God wishes us to be, at least not fully – not yet – and not the people that we ourselves wish to be. And we are, in some ways, far harder on ourselves in this regard than God is.
This is Advent. We must remember that we find Jesus only to seek him once more: he always invites us to know him and love him a bit more, to serve him a little more generously and in new ways. And yet he is always with us to help us in that quest, that growth.
There is a reason that today is truly “Gaudete” Sunday: God comes to us and invites us closer to him.