John the Baptist, imprisoned by the tetrarch, Herod Antipas, for daring to criticise Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his own, sent his followers to Jesus to clarify whether Jesus was the Messiah, the Saviour, the one for whom the Jewish people had been waiting.
The two men were cousins and John would have known about Jesus all his life but he needed to clarify for his sake and for the sake of his followers, whether this was the Chosen One, the One who would “ …baptise … with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:1–12).
John foreshadows the baptised of today, those who seek to follow the path of righteousness but for whom the path sometimes seems obscure.
The traditional teachings of the Church are often perceived to be in violent conflict with the norms and values of our increasingly technologically linked world, a world that demeans and belittles values by which our forefathers lived.
On this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the faithful are called upon to rejoice as the anniversary of the Saviour’s birth draws near. We are called upon to prepare ourselves for receiving Him in a manner befitting the King, our Hope for Salvation.
The world says Christmas is about consumer consumption, not spiritual cleansing, sacrifice and spiritual renewal. The superficial glitter, the encouragement to excessive drinking and eating, the parties and the decorations are designed to appeal to a world that is too busy to contemplate the Divine Mystery.
Ours is a world which does not choose to see the path of eternal life as within our reach when it is far easier to take the ‘here and now’ and to grasp at opportunities for instant gratification.
Many of those who genuinely desire to live lives which are productive and in keeping with the will of God are not too sure either which religious or civil leaders they should follow.
The Church has become fractured by internal conflicts and ‘good’ people are confused about beliefs and practices which they imbibed as children, but which are being openly questioned and opposed by lay and clerical intellectuals.
On another level, civil affairs which should be open to the scrutiny of all citizens are often shrouded in mystery and may be deliberately distorted in their presentation and interpretation.
Citizens who have lost faith in our system of governance become apathetic or cynical and find little to give them hope or joy.
The narrative surrounding global warming, the actual status and treatment of native peoples in supposedly developed societies, the treatment of the elderly, of the disabled, the poor and of other marginalised peoples add to the sense of confusion and loss of direction from which many suffer. Euphemistic labels can be as misleading as outright lies.
In today’s gospel (Matt 11:2–11), Jesus defies those who would question His role as Messiah. The blind, the lame, the deaf and the lepers are cured, and the dead are raised to life.
He reassures us, as He assured John’s disciples, that despite all appearances to the contrary, “… the Good News is proclaimed…; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.” May we all see and live the truth in Him.