III Sunday of Advent
15 December 2019
I recently came across a very interesting article published about 4 years ago that spoke of the Archbishop of Canterbury – Justin Welby – as having doubts about the existence of God, which opened up a firestorm on social media and on the BBC … In a rather lighthearted interview the Archbishop “confessed” that there are moments when one wonders – Is God real? Where is He? Admitting that this is something that an archbishop probably shouldn’t say but went on about the beauty of being Christian, the beauty of faith is that we believe in a God who is faithful even when we are not, he said.
How interesting it is that even John the Baptist needed some sense of reassurance. The symbolism of John’s inquiry and from where he makes it is remarkable – John is in prison, in darkness – unable to see the outside world, unable to connect with others … We do not know for how long a time had passed between the time of his arrest and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry but long enough to cast doubt on the one who we acknowledge to be the herald of the Messiah… Now, to his inquiry, most people would prefer a simple answer – yes or no – but the way Jesus responds is just as thought-provoking: the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the poor have the good news preached to them. Jesus echoes the very words that are proclaimed in the first reading from Isaiah – He has come as the fulfillment of the One spoken of by the Prophet – the one who has entered the world of human suffering in order to set things right in us …He has come to repair a broken humanity. Jesus’ response connects Him to the testimony of Isaiah, to the Scriptures, and thus giving reassurance to John’s faith – the works affirm His identity.
Does that make it clear? Does that it make it easier to grasp in mind or in heart? Nope, not at all. Often we still have doubts … we wonder “where is God?” “Is He even here” … So often we, like John the Baptist, sit in darkness – in perhaps a spiritual darkness that feels disconnected from God and even from others – which can be caused by many things … difficult relationships, stress within families or at work, illnesses of all sorts … in all that we wonder: “where is God?”
And in typical Jewish fashion Jesus poses His question, to the disciples of John and to us: What did you go out to see? Translation: why did you go to church today? Did you come to be entertained? To see a celebrity? What did you come here to see? I will tell you what I see: I see a church community buying gifts and helping box them up for needy families at Christmas time; I see others in this community taking meals to shut ins, I see broken souls finding reconciliation with God and others, I see people with all sorts of illnesses – physical, spiritual, emotional, leaving here hopeful and at peace, I see our God make Himself present to us under the form of bread and wine, I hear His Word proclaimed … The works and words reassure me that our God is here … misery is forgotten, hope is instilled, faith is renewed – a broken humanity is repaired. So I propose this – before you go to bed tonight, take a moment to be thankful for one thing you see – one way you see how God has acted in your life or in the life of another in such a way that brings the joy of faith in our God who comes to set things right in us.