Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent – 11 December 2016

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Questioning ourselves

 We have probably all had the experience of questioning ourselves from time to time, wondering if we made the right decision or chose the right option. Perhaps we sometimes think we got it all wrong.  John the Baptist seems to have had an experience such as this in today’s Gospel passage.  He had been preaching and preparing the way for the Lord and when Jesus appeared John recognised him as the one for whom he had been waiting and baptised him.  Shortly after this John was arrested and put in prison.  He was probably not too worried because he believed Jesus to be the Messiah and therefore he understood that the Day of the Lord had come, that the end of the world was close and that a time of violence and retribution would begin.

However it seems John was disappointed when nothing dramatic happened. Instead of inaugurating the anticipated Messianic Era, Jesus, hearing that John had been arrested, withdrew up to Galilee where he wandered from town to town, preaching, teaching, healing those who were blind, sick and deaf, and gathering his own group of disciples.  This was not what John had expected the Messiah to do and he started to question himself, how he had interpreted his call from God and whether Jesus really was the Messiah, the one he had been waiting for.

It was only natural for John to question himself. He had a vision and an expectation about what the future would look like but now it was unfolding differently to what he had expected.  He was probably disappointed but more significantly he felt he had got things wrong.  Jesus’ response to those whom John sent to question him is interesting.  He has indeed inaugurated a new era, but rather than being the ‘day of wrath’ that John expected it is in fact an era of peace where in fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah the blind can see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life and the good news is preached to the poor.

It can be a shock to us when we realise that God’s plans for us or the world are different to what we were expecting or indeed different to our own plans. We question ourselves and God.  Perhaps we feel we have wasted our time or that God has let us down.  Jesus reassures John’s followers that John didn’t get it wrong or waste his time but that things are different than John had expected.

We need to be able to trust God and his power to work in and through us to achieve his plans. Perhaps it’s good that we question ourselves from time to time but we also need to realise that God’s ways are not always our ways and often things turn out differently than we were expecting.  It’s not that we get it wrong, but rather that we don’t anticipate what God has planned.  So it is good to question ourselves but we also need to trust in God.

Fr Richard Purcell ocso