Twice during this third week of Advent, we have heard in the scriptures the haunting question asked by a jailed John the Baptist, to Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?” Both Matthew and Luke share the story. This exchange between Jesus and John the Baptist is one of my favorite scriptures. One reason this story is striking to me is because of who is asking the question. John the Baptist, after all, had lived his whole life fulfilling his call to prepare others for the promised Messiah. He eventually recognized Jesus as the fulfilment of this promise. What changed so drastically for John, that he now questioned if Jesus is the Messiah?
John the Baptist understood his call was to prepare the way for the coming of God’s promised Messiah. But as John’s ministry and life is ending, he realizes that Jesus’ ministry does not reflect what he had envisioned. John preached about repentance and the wrath that would follow at the coming of the Messiah, but he came to realize that Jesus’ ministry did not reflect this reality. Jesus spoke of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. John’s vision of the Messiah did not match the reality revealed in the ministry of Jesus. His vision of the Messiah was different from God’s plan. Hence the question, “Are you the One who is to come, or should I look for another?”
It is interesting that Jesus did not give John a yes or no answer but pointed to the fruits of his ministry as his response — “the blind see, the deaf hear, lepers are cleansed, the lame walk, the dead are raised…and the poor have the good news preached to them.” Jesus allowed the fruits of his ministry to identify him as the One who was promised by God.
Like John, we may also fall into darkness and doubt. We may not be able to see God’s presence in situations or understand God’s plan in our circumstances. Like John, we too, hold opinions and perspectives that we may have to let go of, to accept a new reality. What resonates with me about this scenario between John the Baptist and Jesus is that I can identify with John in his time of uncertainty, as well as in his time of darkness and doubt. And like John, I can identify with the reassurance and renewal that comes when I seek my answers from God. Jesus’ response to John in this gospel is a joyful reminder, that when we ask, we too, are given what we need to restore and renew our hope.
Lastly, I was intrigued by how Jesus allowed the fruits of his ministry to identify him as the Messiah in his response to John’s question— “Are you the One…?” For us who are called to be disciples of Jesus, could we be identified by the fruits of our ministry of discipleship? Disciples of Jesus are called to help make a difference in the lives of others. Disciples are called to share the light and truth of the gospel. Disciples are called to share the love, compassion, and mercy of Christ. Would the fruits of our ministry of discipleship reveal who we are? Perhaps an even better question might be, “Are we the ones who will make a difference in someone’s life, or should He look for another?”
If your reflection on discipleship is leading you to consider religious life, give us a call for help and resources. You may also want to consider our Mission for Peace event to be held January 13-15, 2023, in three locations. Click here for the flyer.
Wishing you peace, hope and joy this Advent season!
Sr. Pat Dual, OP