|by Angela Lambert|
December 11th, 2016; 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel Matthew 11:2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “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. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
John the Baptist and Jesus confirm in this passage that Jesus is the Christ, and the very climax and axis of history; everything prior had been leading up to this moment, and everything after would be different as a result. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his book Life of Christ, observes:
|“What separates Christ from all men is that first He was expected…A second distinguishing fact is that once He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before His coming, the other after it. Buddha did not do this, nor any of the great Indian philosophers. Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after His coming.”|
Jesus was expected. In addition to the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament (all of which Jesus fulfilled, a statistical near impossibility), Archbishop Sheen cites prophecies can be found pointing to Christ from the Romans, Greeks, and even Chinese. Sheen explains the logic behind this universal prescience:
|“Automobile manufacturers tell their customers when to expect a new model. If God sent anyone from Himself, or if He came Himself with a vitally important message for all men, it would seem reasonable that He would first let men know when His messenger was coming, where He would be born, where He would live, the doctrine He would teach…”|
In consequence, when John the Baptist sends his followers to inquire if Jesus is the Christ, Jesus responds by citing His works, which even at the beginning of His public ministry, already fulfill a host of long awaited prophecies.
John the Baptist is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets. “Testament” means “Covenant” and John represents the fullness of God’s covenant with Israel, at its height and its end. This end however is not an eradication but rather a new beginning. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17 NAB). John’s mission to prepare the way for the messiah also prepares the way for the New Covenant, one which will fulfill and exceed the Old to such an extent that the “least in the kingdom of heaven” will exceed the “greatest” in the old.
Up to this point, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, all of humanity suffered under the weight of sin, guilt, discord, injustice, death, and failure. To prepare us for His coming, He patiently developed a relationship with one man, Abraham, and his family. He revealed His character – His truthfulness, fidelity, and wisdom. As Abraham’s descendants grew in numbers, God freed them from slavery in Egypt, gave them a mighty prophet – Moses, and formed them as a people with Laws given to them from the finger of God to govern them and a promised land where they could nurture their hope for a new garden of paradise. When God anointed David as king, He turned our sights toward a mighty kingdom, one with God’s presence at the center and the source of its strength. Nevertheless, even the chosen people of God had to struggle along without the aid of supernatural grace. They knew the law and yet failed to follow it. They knew where to find happiness yet chased after futile and false pleasures.
With the advent of Christ, the painful wait had finally come to an end. The angels could sing at His birth “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of good will” (Luke 2:14). As Isaiah prophesied: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2), Jesus, who says of Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). With the advent of Christ came the advent of grace and the possibility of transformation and healing. Now every person can face the trials in life confident that, as St. Paul boldly states from his own experience, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
At my son’s basketball tournament today, the lights in the entire complex went out. Out of habit I felt startled and a bit unnerved, then within seconds iPhone flashlights lit up the gymnasium and kids began laughing, chatting, and shooting hoops while they waited. I realized that I grew up in a time before iPhone flashlights, when sudden darkness meant an indeterminate amount of time searching for a source of light, hoping someone had a lighter or flashlight to be found. Kids today don’t know that feeling. They have a light source on them and around them constantly. I thought of the gift of Christ’s light within us, which even though it’s often taken for granted, it still provides an underlying sense of peace and security as it permeates our culture and our consciousness.
We are beyond blessed to be living “in the year of the Lord” (Anno Domini, or A.D.). We live in an age of grace where Christ has made possible the forgiveness of our sins, peace in our souls, and the sight of God Himself, made visible in His Son.
Christ has come, and it has changed everything. This is why belief in Christ, as the Son of God made man, our Redeemer, has pervaded for 2,000 years and persuaded peoples over the entire earth. Jesus changes us and we are witnesses.
- How has Jesus changed your life? In what way(s) are you different now than before?
- Consider the impact Christ has had on the world. Reflect on His power to transform hearts, minds, and lives in every place and in every age.
- Reflect on Christ being the Light of the World. Consider how light provides sight, warmth, peace, and protection.
- Jesus, the Word of God through Whom all things were made, is also man. He is related to all of us as our brother.
- Consider how the most important moment in history hinged on the “yes” of Mary.
- Consider the things God has done through you because of your “yes” to Him.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Each day this week, share the gift of Christ’s light with another person. It can be through word or deed. (remember the works of mercy)
- Pray and work for the conversion of someone you know. Pray for Christ to enter his or her life and to change it forever.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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