Third Sunday of Advent A

John the Baptist has to know.  He is in prison and his life is in danger; indeed, soon it will be taken from him.  He needs to know if he was right.  Is Jesus truly the one, the Messiah?  His needing to know seems to take on a kind of desperation.  If Jesus is not the one, the hopes he raised, his mission, his dreams for his people would be naught.  But if he truly is the one, the meaning of his life would resound throughout history.  He would have fulfilled God’s mission.  He sends his disciples from his cell to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Jesus senses where this question is coming from.  It is not enough to simply reassure John with a positive answer.  He must give his evidence in order to give John peace.  He must show he has inaugurated the kingdom of God John promised and indeed, it is blossoming already.  “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.”  He truly is the one sent from God.

Yet, it is surprising, even jarring, to hear John’s hesitancy.  Given his situation, one can understand it, but John had always been so strong, so confident and so true. But I imagine our faith has a little hesitancy at any time.  I know mine does.  There is no greater and stronger gift that I have than my faith, but that does not preclude the moments when I ask, “Are you there?  Do you notice?  Do you hear me?”  Surely, if I had the faith the size of a mustard seed I could move a mountain or at least say, “Snow, be gone,” and it would.  Yet, here it is.  I am convinced that if my faith were greater I would not be blind to those who need me or stop my ears to those who are calling out for justice of help.  I would be cleansed of selfishness and be free of the crippling effects of my impatience and lack of trust in the Lord.

But this is not a week of hesitancy for me.  I had a too rare moment of the fullness of faith.  As many of you know, my brother was hit by a car last week.  He is doing incredibly well, thank God quite literally.  After receiving the breathtaking call from his wife at 5am and getting updates constantly, I traveled down to Brooklyn and helped as best I could.  It was so busy with so many people coming, sharing their best and above all praying. The prayers changed everything.  So many people told John they were praying for him and loved him, that he said from his hospital bed, “I had a great day.”  His wife and I were like, “Really?”

But all that busyness ended when it was time for surgery.  Suddenly, we were left with nothing but time and powerlessness.   And I prayed.  I prayed and I wanted to touch just how completely I was in need of my God. I wanted to feel that need to my core.  The truth that always underlies my life – that my God is there with me, I needed to experience it so badly that it hurt.  And when we got the good word that the surgery had been successful, I was just as overwhelmed with a sense of thanksgiving, an awareness of that other constant truth, the God gives all good things.

And I remember thinking, what if I was like this all the time.  What if I was always completely aware of my need and always completely aware of my thanks?  I would be…  I would be… an emotional wreck!

Yet, those moments provide us with a horizon.  What we are looking for and needs is always before us, beckoning us to come closer.  We have a horizon of ultimate truth, ultimate peace and ultimate love.  We have a relationship with Jesus in which we can always grow closer, always go deeper.   In our journey, the destination always calls us and the path never ends.

Perhaps, that is why we gather at mass.  To survey the horizon, to have a moment of nothing but faith and then to take that faith into the world and transform it by the same compassion that has made us by bringing Christ into the world.  Here we can absolutely believe the word we have heard.  Here we can say yes, this is the body of Christ, this is the blood of Christ.  I can believe that Jesus is with me and stays with me.

Knowing what we are meant for and knowing what can be with our faith, the kingdom can blossom around us.  We will no longer be blind to those who need us; we will hear and heed the cries of our brothers and sisters; we will be free of the crippling effects of our addictions and pre-occupations; we will touch the leper and dare to be agent s of God’s healing.  And then we too can announce that Jesus is the one and we should wait for no other.

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