Fr. Charles Irvin
3rd Advent [A] 2013
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
“Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”
As you live out life as a Christian, trying to make the life of Jesus a reality in your own life, many are going to be observing you. In key moments, some people are going to be looking to you for help, hope maybe you’ll be their salvation, their way out. Very indirectly, perhaps very quietly, or perhaps quite directly, they might ask you: ARE YOU THE ONE WHO CAN HELP ME… WHO CAN BRING ME SALVATION IN THIS MESS… OR DO I LOOK FOR ANOTHER?
You are a Christian. You openly and publicly bear the name of Christ… and you do it for all to see. You identify yourself as a Catholic. You attend Mass… receive the Sacraments. As a result people are going to look at you… to examine your actions… to look into your life. And they will ask you questions about why you are a Catholic.
You have been baptized. You have been confirmed. As we heard John the Baptist declare in last Sunday’s Gospel, he only baptized with water, but the One who is to come would baptize in the Fire of the Holy Spirit.
Having been marked with the signs of Baptism and Confirmation, and having been joined into Christ’s Mystical Body in Holy Communion, the Church now sends you into the world around us. With Jesus, you are one who is sent. The word “Mass” is derived from “missa” , mission, being sent. You come to Mass to receive in order to be sent, in order to share what you have received.
And so as a baptized and confirmed Christian, as a representative of Christ, openly living the Christian life, you will encounter people who will be looking at you and your life and asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?” Is your Faith real, is your Faith true and right, or do we look to another? One of the reasons why Pope Francis is popular is that he is real.
John the Baptist asked that question of Jesus because he wasn’t so sure about Jesus. Oh, he had heard reports about Christ. He’s heard rumors about His miracles, miracles that we done quietly, privately, only for a few individuals and without any dazzling, public display. John had even baptized Jesus with a baptism of repentance, an ancient Jewish religious practice that was not uncommon. John the Baptist had done that at the beginning of Christ’s public life. John was quite sure about Jesus at that point, telling everyone that he, John, wasn’t even worthy to carry Jesus sandals. But now? Well…. he just wasn’t so sure anymore. You see Jesus hadn’t as yet liberated the Jews from the yoke of the Romans and their occupying army. Jesus hadn’t vindicated the Jews in front of the whole world, and so John wasn’t so sure that Jesus really was the Messiah, the Savior, after all.
Well, Jesus sent a reply back to John via John’s own messengers. Tell him, Jesus replied what you see and hear: the blind see once again, the crippled can now walk, hopeless lepers have skin that is clean once again, people that couldn’t hear can now hear and speak again, dead men are raised back into living again, and men and women who were without hope now hear good news. And happy are they who are not disappointed in me!
What, we must now ask, will be the message others receive about your life and mine? What kinds of things are happening in your life and mine that will give men and women hope? What will answer their insistent call to you: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”
Each one of us here should be able to give the answer that Jesus gave. People that know us should be able to see, to have a vision and see what the meaning and purpose of human life is all about. They can dream the dreams that we dream. There is light in our lives, a light that shines in the darkness, a light that points to hope, the hope of eventual victory… the hope of the triumph of good over evil… the hope of peace… a light that reveals the presence of salvation in our lives. The blind, the spiritually blind, in other words, ought to be able to see God’s presence in humanity because of us.
Then there are the crippled. Others can see in us, or ought to see, a person who is actively doing something about the downtrodden in our world. We have, for instance, the Alternative Christmas Tree in the back of our church. Through it we are not giving money to some cause or some organized charity. And please don’t misunderstand me – many of those things are noble, very worthy and wonderful organizations. Here, however, we have an opportunity to directly respond to folks nearby as ones who are giving them gifts from God.
The lepers? All around us there are persons whose skins crawl with self-hatred. There are those who have been ostracized by others, cast away and left to shift for themselves. They are the lonely, the socially underdeveloped, the so-called freaks, and so on. Do we regard them as lepers and refuse to even get near them, or even breathe the air that they breathe? “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another, O Christian?”
And there are the deaf… those who can’t communicate… those who listen but do not hear. There are those who don’t understand Christianity… or Jesus… who have never really heard about Jesus Christ… who haven’t studied His personality… His character… and who would like to. Can you and I be answers to their prayers? Can we reveal Jesus to them in who we are and what we do?
And we are sent, finally, to raise the dead back to life again. I suppose for us it means going to those in our lives who are exhausted, worn out, dead tired, and giving them the energy of our love… giving them the power of our love, our enthusiasm. It means spending a lot of time and energy on them… our own time and lots of our precious energy… helping them to break out of their shell and bring them back into life again. It means giving them hope… something to live for… a life full of beauty, wonder, awe, goodness, and all of those things that make life really worth living. It means giving good news to those who are near death and have nothing but bad news because they have lost hope.
And so, Christian, as Christmas comes to you once again – Happy are those who are not disappointed in you. You are the one sent by God into their lives so that they need not look for another!