One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

December 16, 2007

For the Third Sunday of Advent

Matthew 11:2-11

John the Baptist had spoken out publicly about the infamous sins of King Herod.
That was not unusual for John, since he always told everyone in the land to repent.
The king had him arrested and imprisoned.
Someone has told John in prison about the things Christ has been doing and saying.
Christ gathered the crowds on a mountain, and began to teach like Moses— but with wondrous newness, creativity and depth.
Then, as if to signal that a new promise was coming from God— a promise greater than a land flowing with milk and honey— Christ began to work great miracles.
He once scolded the storm wind and the tossing sea; and they fell dead silent.
Then, he brought a dead girl back to life.
John in prison has heard these things about Christ.
To John and to many, Christ had begun to seem the promised one of God, the one to whom God would give a royal anointing to save and sanctify the country, and to teach all the nations.
Then, the latest news comes to John in prison.
The possible Messiah has just taught his disciples that for their loyalty and faith, they will be persecuted, cut off from their relatives, and even killed.
How can a savior sent by God say this?
John now sends his own followers with a message for Christ.
Are you the one who is to come,
or shall we look for someone else?

You and I have something in common with John the Baptist.
We also have something in common with the disciples of John the Baptist.
Somewhat like John the Baptist, you and I have been arrested and locked up by our inherited and universally shared human tendency to sin.
From within our prison, we, like John the Baptist, receive the news that Christ has bottomless wisdom, that he has power higher than the stormy sky, and that he has authority over life and death.
Could he be God’s promise in person?
Like the disciples of John the Baptist, we are entirely free to go to Christ and ask him, “Are you the PROMISE-IN-PERSON, or shall we go somewhere else?”
Christ still tells us the same thing he once told the disciples of John the Baptist.
Go and tell what YOU hear and YOU see:
I make disabled bodies whole again,
I raise up the dead,
and I preach good news to the poor.

From within our prison of sinful tendencies, and from behind the bars of human suffering, the Gospel of Christ may seem too good to be true.
Perhaps, at times, in the midst of sadness, fear or anger, we may feel like saying to Christ, “So what?”
“First work some miracles for me, then I’ll believe in you.”
Perhaps at times we may want to say to him, “Set me free from my prison, then I’ll know you are the promised one of God.”
“Why does following you involve the cross?”
Knowing the questions in the mind of John the Baptist, and knowing the shadows in our minds, Christ adds a mysterious beatitude to the answer he gives to the disciples of John and to us.
Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.

Christ knows we may find his Gospel difficult to believe, difficult to swallow, difficult to follow.
His Gospel is a scandal not only to those who do not believe.
We also stumble, because while Christ promises God’s undying love, yet he also declares our share in the cross.
Christ knows his own contradiction.
So, in his Gospel today, he deliberately points to the challenging nature of his Gospel from a different direction.
He begins to speak to the crowd about John the Baptist.
He tells them God sent John as a messenger to prepare the way for God’s promise to come true in Christ and his Gospel.
Christ says that the preparation for the Gospel is no limp reed flopping in the breeze.
The preparation for the Gospel is out in wild and deserted places— not in the comfort of a royal palace.
The preparation for God’s promise to come true is a penitential prophet.
What is the message of this prophet?
Confession of sins.
Reformation of life.

How many of us have been preparing in THAT WAY for Christmas Day?
How many of us have prepared in THAT WAY for Christ-in-the-Mass TODAY?
John’s way and John’s work opened up the people for Christ.
That is why Christ said of John:
Truly, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.

John is the greatest person ever born because he prepared the way for Christ to begin his saving work.
Still, Christ adds that the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist.
Who, then, is this “least one” in the kingdom of heaven?
Christ made himself the least one in the kingdom of heaven.
He chose to be the servant of sinners, as well as the food and drink of sinners.
Christ will come to us in a special way by our celebration of his birth at Christmas.
However, Christ is coming right now and right here in his Eucharist.
John the Baptist shows us the supreme greatness of being prepared for Christ now and always.
Confession of sins.
Reformation of life.

Are we ready to receive Christ?
Or are we looking elsewhere?

That God Be Glorified in All


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