December 5, 2010


You brood of vipers! Who warned you flee from the coming wrath?

– Mt. 3: 7

John was not known for mincing words, nor did he exhibit any hesitation or lack of certainty. He was a man on fire with a purpose, God’s prophet aiming for the jugular. Even so, after he was thrown into prison & had time to think a bit, doubt seems to have crept in. Was he right? Was he really called by God or was this self-delusion? Was his effort in vain? Was his cousin Jesus really the one he was paving the way for?

Maybe after so many years he was at a low point. Maybe he had been all wrong, chosen the wrong path, & backed the wrong Messiah. Doubts made for troubled dreams, & so John decided to act. He sent his disciples to Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus answered the delegation the best way He could: “Go & tell John what you see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, & the poor have the Good News brought to them.”

The John of Advent represents many people throughout the ages. He is one of those who at first, say yes to God, but then have second thoughts. He might have said something like this: “I have been faithful to God. I have kept trust. I have prayed. I read all the right books, faithfully go to Mass, & give to the poor. Yet my life has not turned out all right.”

How many people have wondered to themselves throughout the ages: “Is it wrong to have been so faithful? Worse, have I been a fool?” A man who had just lost his 27 year old son in a senseless traffic accident once asked me, “All I ever wanted to be was a friend of God. How could He let this happen?”

Henri Nouwen had this to say about death:

“Death does not have to be our final failure, our final defeat in the struggle of life, our unavoidable fate. If our deepest human desire is indeed to give ourselves to others, then we can make our death a final gift. It is so wonderful to see how fruitful death is when it is a free gift.”

The key to dealing with our doubts is to hold onto the faithful presence of God in our worst moments, clinging to belief in the ultimate victory of God’s love which will make all things new again. No one is free of second thoughts, especially in times of crisis. Not even John the Baptist; not even Jesus on the cross. There is a response, & in it our life lesson: “Nevertheless not my will but thine be done….into your hands I commend my spirit.”

The trick is to hold onto the miraculous presence of God in times of seeming abandonment, when we are tempted to look for someone or something else to believe in. John may have lapsed into doubt, but he still gave his life for truth & God was present in John’s fidelity, despite his doubt.

Yes, we can pray for a miracle, but we must also pray to discern the divine presence in the rhythmic suffering & death of human existence & offer them as a gift which will be forever accepted by a love that never falters, in a place where there are no more tears. AMEN!