GOD WAS AT WORK IN THE ACTIONS OF JESUS
(A biblical refection on the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 11 December 2016)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:2-11
First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Second Reading: James 5:7-10
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You He who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in king’s houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written. ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than he.” (Matthew 11:2-11 RSV)
From what does Christ save us? He saves us firstly from sin, and secondly from death. But most of us can admit that we tend to be offhand and casual about sin, and rather dubious about salvation from death, the inevitable end of every living thing.
However, about sin, if we look about us, we can see the very definite results of sin in the community, in society. It can lead to divisions and strife, to violence against innocent victims, to extortion and robbery. Where there is selfishness and the relentless pursuit of one’s own interests and desires without regard for the rights of others, there is sin.
In complete contrast the example of Christ, and even more so the merits gained by Christ, who was completely at one with the will of God the Father and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Christ who gave of Himself for others, who was the one for others, even to be extent of laying down His very life for them, all these can bring about a change in those who sincerely invite Christ into their lives, a change which can counteract the evil tendencies which are the results of sin. And if we ask how Christ has conquered death the answer is that by His resurrection He has removed the fear of death from those who have faith in Him, for He has given a solemn promise that, if we but believe, we also shall rise from the dead as He did. Instead of feeling doomed to extinction, we can say in the words of scripture: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Furthermore, on His final night on earth, Jesus left us, as His last testimony, the Holy Eucharist which is celebrated everyday as a sign and guarantee that this will come to pass. Before that event Jesus said, “… he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). If our faith in the promises of Jesus wavers, we are reassured by His answer to the query of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, “Are You He who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Obviously John also was going through a crisis of faith, for before his imprisonment he had said of Jesus, “… I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Jesus’ reply to the disciples of John, who had put the question, was to go back and tell John, not what Jesus was saying, but rather what He was doing. John, with his knowledge of the Old Testament, would then understand that in the healing of the sick, the lame, the blind, was clearly revealed the sign which the prophet Isaiah declared would denote the coming of the promised Messiah. God was at work in the actions of Jesus.
But the significance of the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, goes deeper than any physical cure. In Christ those who are blind to the truth about themselves and God have their eyes opened, in Christ those who falter in their pursuit of what is honorable and just and pure have their steps strengthened, in Christ those who were deaf to the voice of God and conscience begin to listen, in Christ those who were dead and powerless in the grip of sin are restored to newness and richness of life, in Christ the poorest are endowed with the riches of God. This is the season when we are called to live in the thought of Jesus as He once came, and as He will come again for each one of us. It is the time to desire His second coming from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of His coming on that first Christmas (Cardinal Newman).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless all who hunger and thirst for You. Fill them with joyful hope in the eternal prize that awaits each of us in You. I love You, Lord, and patiently await that glorious day when I will see You face-to-face. Amen.
Jakarta, 10 December 2016
A Christian Pilgrim