“When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Let us consider for a moment what might have been going through the Baptizer’s mind as he sat in prison. He had devoted his life to God, calling people to repent and to return to God. He had baptized Jesus in the River Jordan and heard the voice from heaven, and he even sent two of his disciples off to follow Jesus, saying to them “Behold the Lamb of God.”
John believed he had baptized the Anointed One; he had prepared the way for the Lord. However, Jesus had done very little up to this point to show Himself as the Anointed One. John must have considered the possibility that he had been mistaken. Why had Jesus not done anything? Now in prison, maybe John was reflecting upon the life he spent in the wilderness doing God’s will, or at least what he believed to be God’s will for him. In this state, John is hearing about the works of Jesus. The heaviness of any doubt he may have had as well as any anxiousness about the unknown future must have been somewhat lightened by the news he had received about Jesus. So, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, to confirm, “Are you the one who is to come?”
I believe we all can relate to this scenario; I know I can. Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing what God wants me to do? Why am I not seeing the miracle-working power of the Anointed One? Where is Jesus in this situation? All of these are questions we may ponder, especially when we find ourselves in some type of crisis situation or when we are just feeling down from the worries of the world, and not perceiving our life as bearing the spiritual fruit we desire. We want a little proof we are on the right track. We may not be asking “Are you the One?” but we are seeking assurance. We can be saying our prayers, attending Mass, going to confession, doing works of charity, and studying the faith, yet from time to time the road we have chosen to travel might seem a little lonely and give cause for question; even St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced periods in her life in which she did not feel the presence of Jesus. How are we to know we are on the right track?
In his book, The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg writes a children’s story about Christmas, particularly about children who do not believe in Santa Claus. To get to the main point of the story, the children are encouraged to believe; they must believe in order to experience the wonder of Christmas. They are told as long as they believe, no matter how old they are, they will know the joy and miracle of Christmas; if they stop believing, then Christmas is just another holiday, in fact, just another day.
This children’s story speaks a spiritual truth: we must keep on believing in order to experience the wonder of Christmas, which of course has nothing to do with Santa Claus and everything to do with the birth of our Lord. We should order our daily life toward Jesus, even when—or especially when—we do not feel too close to Him. Therefore, it is important that we live our life in such a way that reflects the faith of the Church. We must not grow weary of traveling this road.
Listen again to the words of St. Paul, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
We want assurance. We want to know the way in which we live our life is not in vain, that it is producing fruit. Be patient, continue saying your prayers, receiving the sacraments, doing works of charity, and studying the faith; continue on in faith and be assured that the One in which we are traveling toward is already walking with us now.
Jesus responded to the Baptizer’s inquiry by saying, “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.” John the Baptist, even as he sat in prison could rejoice. He was faithful to his calling, and the Lamb of God has come into the word, bringing joy to all who believe.
The signs of Jesus being the One are all around us. We only need to continue to believe—to live our life based upon the faith of the Church; for in believing we see, and we will have peace and joy in the wonder of God’s love for us, as shown in the Incarnation of His Only Begotten Son.
Rejoice brothers and sisters, we are not living our lives in vain. Keep the faith, live the faith; God is faithful. Jesus is the One we long to see and He comes to all who believe. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!
-Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Fr. Mark Lewis