14 December 2005: Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Advent
Luke 7, 18-23: St. John of the Cross
In a funeral, they were burying a rather unpleasant character who had never been near a place of worship in his life. The services were being conducted by a priest who had never heard of him (many priests actually do not know many of those they bury). Carried away by the occasion, he poured on praise of the departed man (often a formula homily for people we do not know). After ten minutes of describing the departed as an exceptional father, a loving husband, and a considerate boss, the widow whose expression had grown more and more confused, nudged her son and whispered: “Go up there and make sure it’s Papa.”
Perhaps John would have asked his disciples to go to Jesus and ask who he was because he would like to make sure that He indeed was the Messiah. You see, John was accustomed to the wide open spaces of the desert, and now he was imprisoned in the castle of Machaerus, a little dungeon. When such a man, a few days before his beheading, found himself looking back at all his life, dedicated in preparing the way of the Lord, it would be a great consolation to know that his life had not been in vain, and that he could go in peace. However, he had heard of what Jesus was doing. And it was not what people expected of a Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to look at what was happening as proof of his being the Savior: the blind recovered their sight; the lame walked; the lepers were cleansed; the deaf could hear; the dead were raised up; the poor had the Good News told to them.
Like the wife in the funeral, John wanted to know if what the news he was receiving about Jesus was indeed the Messiah he was expecting. “See if what they are talking about is the Messiah,” John commanded his disciples, “Ask Jesus if He is indeed the savior.” You see, that was not what was expected of the Messiah. They thought the Messiah would come like a political leader who would make Israel an empire again as during the time of King David; a savior who would free them from the domination of Rome.
On the contrary, Jesus demonstrated the proof that the Kingdom of God is present by showing what he was doing: suffering is turned to joy, when those in pain are comforted, when the poor are blessed, when the love and mercy of God is deeply felt. Totally different from what was expected.
Today, we look back on the ways God reveals himself to us; how He makes himself known. What are our expectations of God’s entering into our life? Do we expect God to appear to us like an apparition and a flash of light? We have seen angels being sold and given away as gifts and forget their significance in Scripture. Angels come at very significant moments in history, acting as God’s messengers, guiding, inviting, and giving us directions. Do we expect God to come like angels literally?
Or, are we reminded to open our eyes and our ears to see and hear God present in all things not just in the extraordinary apparitions, but in our daily, ordinary lives? If we indeed believe that God is present all the time, everywhere, then all nooks and crannies are places where God is. Everything at Christmas becomes sacred. Thus we can see God in the least expected places: from the garbage dump of Payatas, to our comfort rooms in our homes, to places of war and violence, to sleazy bars and dens, to the remotest part of the world. This Advent is a good time to see God present in the least expected places and situations, in areas we do not expect his presence. This is the time to believe that He is indeed here. In the first place, the Jews expected the Messiah to be born in a palace, God reserved a stable instead.