3rd Advent [A] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

3rd Advent [A] 2010
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Life is full of questions. How to you feel about them? How do you regard them? Not being comfortable with mysteries, some of us don’t like unanswered questions and are annoyed by them. Others of us ask questions because we have doubts and use questions to express our doubts. Ask yourself – how do your react to questions?

I think questions can be wonderful. Questions show that we wonder, that we are questing, that we have faith that there are answers to our questionings. Intellectual curiosity is something our teachers and professors want to engender in our hearts and minds. They teach us to be searchers for the truth. To do that we must ask lots of questions.

Recently I leaned of a mother with a son in school and whenever he came home after school she would ask him: “Did you learn any good questions today?” What a wonderful mother to have! Would that all mothers and fathers would continually ask that question of their children. Would that they would raise kids to become lifetime learners and seekers of truth.

Many students want answers and want them immediately handed to them on a silver platter. Isn’t that something we all experience? Along with instant gratification don’t we want immediate answers to our questions? Many of us have a hard time living with unanswered questions. Perhaps that’s why having faith isn’t so popular, particularly in these days when science and technology have become false gods promising answers to all of our problems.

But life isn’t a problem to be solved – it’s a mystery to be lived. To be sure, lovers like to pursue each other; they like to be pursued, sought out, to be found in love’s great game of “catch me if you can.” Love can’t be engineered. Love can’t be proved either scientifically or in a court of law. Love can only be lived and found in the mystery of the one we love. Love is pursued in many, many questings.

Jesus continually pushed His disciples with questions. “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?” Using parables in His teachings, He asked His disciples to tell Him what those parables meant. He allows us to experience questions, questions like: “What is the meaning of my life?” “Who am I?” “What does God want me to do with my life?” “Why is there suffering?” “What does evil exist – where does it come from?” “Why did Jesus have to die a horrible death on His Cross of agony?”

Religion leads us into questions. It should! Our faith takes us into a quest for God, for His truth, for His love. Some preachers think religion should provide us with all of the answers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Religion should lead us into searching out the meaning of life, particularly the meaning and purpose of your life as well as mine. That requires a lot of questions the answers to which are not simple.

So, turning to today’s Gospel account we find John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus with the question: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?” John was not asking the question because he doubted, or was denying that Jesus was God’s Anointed One, the Christ. After all when he baptized Jesus in the River Jordan John the Baptist proclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Later in his preaching John declared: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John knew full well that Jesus was the Promised Messiah. He didn’t need to hear Jesus’ answer to the question: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?” But evidently he knew his disciples did.

Many of Jesus’ contemporaries expected the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies, particularly the hated Romans. Many expected God’s Messiah would solve all of their problems. People in our own time still expect Christ to be their ultimate problem solver. They reject Him when they find that they have to work at solving their problems, failing to understand that God works with us, not for us. We have our responsibilities – God is not going to relieve us of all that we have to do to work with Him to make our world a better place. God isn’t going to take care of everything for us.

Jesus answered the question put to Him by John’s disciples, saying: “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.” He knew His answer would disappoint John’s disciples because they were hoping for a warrior king and instead they got a shepherd. He also knew that this was good news, joyful news, for all who experienced oppression and suffering, both physically and spiritually. All of the prophesies found in the Old Testament were about to be fulfilled.  All of Israel’s prophets foretold the advent of the Messiah; John stood at the threshold and was privileged to usher in the very presence of the hoped-for Messiah.

There are some things in life that can really devastate us. Among them are broken promises and unmet expectations. In the 1970’s and 80’s we lost trust in ourselves. The effects of the Vietnam War, of governmental scandals typified in the Watergate lies, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert dashed the hopes of many and eroded their expectations. Governmental corruption, outright lies on the part of our leaders both in government and in our business leaders have had their effects on us all. Our divorce rate and the abuse of our children beset us daily. Because of so many broken promises we have a lot of broken hearts.

A lot of people around us are looking for easy answers rather than for good questions. Preachers and pundits are given to offering us simplistic slogans and simple solutions. We need to continually remind ourselves that finding the right answers depends on asking the right questions. What you find is what you’re looking for. Painful questions are God’s way of preparing us for better answers. Easy questions only give us easy answers. Valuable answers cost – they come to us at a price.

Throughout His ministry Jesus continually pushed His followers to ask bigger and better questions. The most important of those questions is the one Jesus asked of His disciples:  “Who do you say I am?” Rather than answering by producing a list of things we expect from Christ, we should continually, each and every day, ask ourselves: “What God expect of me?” “Am I listening to God?” “What is God telling me?” Perhaps we don’t have answers that are immediately apparent to us, but asking the right questions is certainly better than having a false set of expectations of God.

‘What do you expect from God? is a good question. A better question is: What does God expect from you? Can He find your wholehearted love, or should He look for another?

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About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”