The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lamp leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord God keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. (R)
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.(P) The word of the Lord.
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?" Jesus said to them in reply, "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."
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; He will prepare your way before you. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day two men bumped into each other on a crowded street and both fell to the ground. One apologized and said to the other, "Please tell me, "Are you me? Or am I you?" "I know, I am me," the other man replied, but as for you, you must be stupid to ask such a question. "Oh, I am not stupid," said the man, "It's just that we look similar, and when we bumped into each other and fell, I thought we might have got mixed up in the fall."
Over two thousand years ago there was some confusion among people about John the Baptist and Jesus. They both lived in the same time. John was the forerunner of Jesus and a preacher of Messianic hope. He was not an ordinary preacher. He was fearless, assertive and confident in his preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. So many people came and received baptism from John at the river Jordan. In fact, some people, after seeing his courage and character, thought that he was the Messiah, whom they had been waiting for so many years. But John told them clearly that he was not the Messiah, and he was sent only to baptize people and prepare the way for the Lord.
In today's text, Matthew (11:2-11), we read that from the prison John sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Why did John send his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the expected one?
There are two views concerning John's inquiry. Some think that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus for his own satisfaction. John had proclaimed that the Messiah would be greater than him, and that He would be divine in nature. He had also declared God's impending retribution, the coming of the one who would baptize people not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire, Matthew (3:11), "who would cut down every tree that does not bear good fruit and throw into the fire", Matthew (3:10, 12). But, instead, Jesus seemed to content Himself with preaching, healing and driving out demons, and allow evil and suffering.
For instance, John was imprisoned because he had preached against King Herod who had married his brother's wife, and there was no deliverance in sight. Therefore, some believe that while in prison, John probably wondered if Jesus really was the Messiah, and so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus. Others regard John as asking a natural question. They think that it was a question of clarification, not a question of doubt. John wanted his disciples to find out for themselves if Jesus was the Messiah.
Whatever motive prompted John to ask this question, Jesus, to prove that He is the one, did not give them a direct yes and no answer but asked John's disciples to report to John what they saw and what they heard. Jesus did cure the sick and the lame as evidence to prove that He was the expected Messiah. Finally, Jesus ended His personal message to John by saying, "Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." In other words, Jesus exhorted John not to allow himself to be offended because he was in prison.
What is the message for us?
I believe it was not to settle his doubts that John wanted his disciples to ask Jesus if He was truly the Messiah but rather to help put away doubts and uncertainties of his followers. However, John's question really a question asked by people of every age. When we pray, we often expect God to act immediately on our behalf and do our will. We want Him to eliminate all evil and suffering in the world and make our lives easy. But often times we feel our God appears to be powerless. Instead of removing our pain, God wants us to be patient and faithful to Him. We want God to show His power and punish our enemies. But He wants us to "love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us". When God does not act as we wish and when our faith in God is shaken, we tend to ask, "Is Jesus the One who can redeem us, or should we look for another?"
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord, first of all, we are reminded today that Jesus Himself was and is the Messiah, and there is no other but Him who can alone save us, forgive us, heal us and change us. Second, we are called upon to be open to hear and to understand the message, and see and believe the wonders of Jesus in our midst, and truly recognize and proclaim Him as our Savior. Third, we are urged not be angry with God because of injustice or the suffering in our life, instead, offer up all the pain, despair, worry, fear, and struggle to God, and "He will sustain you, He will never let the righteous fall", Psalm (55:22).(P) Amen.
God Bless You!