Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Advent
1st Reading IS 45:6C-8, 18, 21C-25
Gospel LK 7:18B-23
That that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” – Luke 7: 18B-19
While still in the womb, John the Baptist recognized the Messiah and leaped for joy. Now, years later, he has lost that sense of childlike intuition. He hopes, but he isn’t quite sure. Worn with all he has seen and experienced, tired out from the work he so willingly does for God, he sends two of his disciples to ask. At least there is that – John asks. He isn’t afraid to seek the truth.
We, too, need to not fear asking God for anything. If he is God – as we believe – He can take it. He can take our doubts and wondering, he can take our moments of brokenness and fear, and he will give us truth.
But that truth may not be as direct an answer as we sometimes want.
Jesus replies to John’s emissaries,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Jesus tells John to look at the signs. All that was promised concerning the Messiah was happening. The signs are there.
Why doesn’t Jesus just say, “Yup, it’s me!”
Is that any easier to believe?
We often think, “If God would just answer us! If He would just SPEAK to us, we’d believe.”
But history – salvation history – shows that simply isn’t true. God spoke, daily, to Adam and Eve, and yet they chose something other-than-God. Balaam’s donkey literally opened her mouth and spoke to him, warning him of the angel of the Lord’s presence. Balaam then saw and spoke to the angel. Although he followed God’s commands at that time, at the end of his life, he only served himself, finding ways to corrupt the Israelites. King David – a man after God’s own heart – took Bathsheba as a wife through dishonesty, betrayal, and murder, turning from God for a time. Zechariah was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told him his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son – John the Baptist – who would be the front runner of the long awaited Messiah, and Zechariah did not really believe it.
How often has God spoken in your life? In mine? And how often have we dismissed it, ignored it, forgotten it, discounted it?
I have struggled greatly this year, as have many others. A couple of months ago, I was deep down in the pit of sadness and grief – for lost jobs, lost faith, lost church community. For days upon days I struggled, until one day I could not stay silent.
“I know we should not place demands on you, Lord,” I cried, “but I need a sign. I need to know that You hear me, You see me, You love me, and that You have a plan. The waters are up to my neck and I am drowning. Please, place me on the heart of a friend – one who doesn’t normally communicate with me – and have them reach out to me today.”
I said this, knowing that it may not happen, and my faith wouldn’t shatter if all I heard was silence. I said this with the cry of a trusting child.
Before noon that day, a friend I have known for years, but only email or communicate with a little, sent me an email. It was titled “Hey” and began with this sentence: “I really hope you don’t think I am weird for sending this…”, and OF COURSE, God had laid me on her heart that morning, and she gave me some very encouraging words.
I responded to her with my request of God, and we both recognized the work of the Lord. It wasn’t just in the email and the act of reaching out, but in the very air around me. I knew.
Was that enough to change my life forever? Was it even the first time God had answered me or revealed His love directly to me in a personal way? No. Why isn’t it enough?
Again, last week, I had been struggling again. A different friend reached out to me – another friend I have known a long time and with whom I communicate lightly – with words God had given her that she felt led to share with me. And again, the message was bang on. And, again, I felt His presence and love.
Will it be enough? Will I ever doubt again? I wish I could say that I am now firmly faithful, but the truth is that I will probably stumble and fall, and stumble and fall, and stumble and fall all my life.
Jesus doesn’t just answer John with a “Yes, it is I, the Messiah.” Instead, he points John to look around him, to see the signs and wonders, to know the presence of the Lord with his own senses.
God doesn’t want to MAKE us have faith. He invites. He encourages. He leave clues and treasures, even when it’s dark around us. We must wake up and pay attention. We must be willing to have hearts softened enough to see the signs. We must be willing to reach out to others, and be willing to have them reach out to us. We must be willing to ask God, most of all, for the heart, for the faith, to see.
The presence of the Lord is near. What are the signs in your life?