Matthew 11: 2-11
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 kings' 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 way before thee.' Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The Lord gives us the example of St. John the Baptist today to fortify our belief in the prophecy of Himself in the Old Testament. Even he, however, asked the disciples to question if Jesus is the true Savior; perhaps in prison, his faith is challenged. Jesus challenges the crowds to examine their motives in seeking out John. He wants them to know that their faith cannot be dependent on the standards of this world, but only on the kingdom of Heaven.
How is the Lord challenging my faith this Advent season? Can I identify with St. John the Baptist as one who was so sure but now amidst suffering is doubting? Do I identify with the crowds who sought out St. John as a man who could produce miracles or a man with visible worth and royalty? What are my motives for the various aspects of my spiritual life? Do I seek miracles? Do I despair in the simplicity of doing dishes and changing diapers, or do I offer each such moment of drudgery to the Lord, seeking union with Him?
I am currently being blessed by the most recent book of Mother Teresa of Calcutta's writings. If you have not picked it up, get it and be prepared to be challenged. The union with God she describes is not that of ecstasy or even of tranquility but of great passion and suffering. Her life was spent yearning for Christ, never satisfied, always thirsting for Him as He thirsts for each one of us. Yet, we all saw the outward simple beauty of her love and joy for Jesus.
The Gospel stories are full of instances, such as this, where Jesus points out that holiness is not what we would expect. How do I envision holiness? Are there those after whom I try to model my spiritual life? What do I really know of their interior lives? Is my picture of holiness the perfect image of some saint or relative? Do I have a grasp of the suffering that holiness entails?
Being a Christian is always a paradox. It is always remembering that the last shall be first. Explaining that to my five-year-old is not easy, but it reminds me that I do not understand it well enough myself. As we prepare this last week before Christmas, let us take at least one hour of prayer to ask the Lord to show us the reality of holiness. It isn't always pretty or what we would expect, but it is always perfect.