December 16, 2007

Advent III (A)

What did you go out to the desert to see? – Mt. 11: 7

Waiting is an ambiguous thing. It can be a happy expectation such as a graduation ceremony or a wedding or an awards ceremony where we know some honor is going to be bestowed upon us. It can also be a frustrating experience such as waiting in a long line or waiting for a traffic light to change. Finally, it can be a cause for anxiety when we are uncertain of the outcome of some activity.

John the Baptist had every reason to be anxious apart from being in prison. He needed to know if his life’s work of preparing a way for the Lord had reached fruition. But what exactly is he looking for & what is the deepest desire of his heart? Apparently something different from what Jesus was doing; hence the question sent via his disciples.

Instead of answering the question directly, Jesus points to his works. They do not reflect judgment, punishment & vindication, but restoration. Each person must come to his own conclusion about whether Jesus is the one for whom they are waiting. Titles are open to misunderstanding. We have to grasp the meaning of His works.

Then He turns to the crowd & addresses them with a question. What were they looking for in John? Someone who is the plaything of every influence, at the whim of external pressures? Were they looking for pomp & glitz, i.e., were they celebrity stalkers? No, they were looking for a prophet, someone grounded in God who cannot be pushed around & who confronts the abuses of people in power.

But they wanted a prophet who could not only criticize sin, but also point to redemption, namely, to Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate reason why they went out into the desert. Whether we appreciate it or not, the ultimate desire of our heart is to be connected to God, the source & parent of our being. But we have strayed from this relationship & consequently live in exile from our true selves. But we search for what we have lost, often in the wrong places because our understanding & reasoning has been distorted by original sin.

In the creation story, we find these words: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gen. 1: 31). First God sees all; then God sees it is good, all of it. So, essential aspects of creation do not have to be rejected. But how does God see? Not as we humans see.

We see only between the blinks of our eyes, & do not know what the world is like between blinks. We see the world in pieces, in fragments. But God sees the world whole, unbroken. That world is good – it is our seeing that is broken. Can we make it like the seeing of God? Is it possible?

Our Lord’s reply is “Yes!” His work is to move people beyond pieces & fragments, to give us the ability to see without blinking. He can open our hearts to the wholeness of creation for this is what our hearts desire most. This is what the crowds went into the desert to see, & it is Jesus who knows how to see in this way & knows how to teach others to see in this way. The One Who Is To Come has arrived. AMEN!