Third Sunday of Advent
In today’s Gospel, we see the consequence of John the Baptist’s insistence on speaking the Truth. He is in prison because he spoke out against Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife. He must have sensed that he wouldn’t get out of prison alive - his enemies were powerful and determined to be rid of him.
As he languished in prison, he would no doubt have looked at his life - and wondered whether he had been right. Was the Messiah coming soon? Had his baptism with water been the forerunner of the greater baptism that the Christ would bring? Had it been worth giving up all prospect of marriage and family-life to live in a desert living on what little the wilderness supplied? Had his life been wasted?
Then, he hears details of what Jesus is doing - and asks - are You the one who is to come? - or do we have to carry on waiting?
Jesus replies by looking to the Scripture reading used as our Old Testament reading today - from the prophet Isaiah. The healings, though wonderful in themselves, are also signs of the Chosen One coming among God’s people. The miracles helped people to come to faith and trust in Jesus.
For some, the faith and trust would last only as long as the miracles did - but for others, that faith and trust would sustain them in times of trial and persecution.
Jesus speaks to the crowds about John - a man who links the early Christians of Matthew’s community with their Jewish roots. He is identified as a prophet - in the long and distinguished line of Jewish prophets.
Like them, John has a clear vision of truth - and, like many of the prophets, suffered hostility from those who found their beliefs challenged. The prophets believed in the God of Truth - the God of Justice - the God who liberates - the God who loves with steadfast and enduring love. They believed in “Emmanuel” - the God who is with His people.
John’s privilege - though its cost to his earthly life was enormous - was to be the last in that great line of prophets. As his own father, Zechariah, had prophesied so many years before - John was to be the prophet of the Most High - the one who heralded the dawn from on high - a new era in the history of the world - when God would walk with His people...
What does it mean for me?
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