On this 3rd Sunday of Advent, traditionally called “Gaudate Sunday” (Latin for rejoice), the Church gives us a story about a man who definitely was not rejoicing. John the Baptist, the faithful forerunner of the Messiah, languishing in a dark prison for being politically incorrect, asks a question of Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or do we look for another?” The answer Jesus gives may seem enigmatic to us, but would be crystal clear to John: The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the poor have the good news preached to them. Such were the signs of the Messiah that John would be the first to recognize.
But why would the great
St. John need to be reminded of what was
obvious? Because even the great ones of
the spirit come finally to a terrifying darkness where only questions seem to
fill the emptiness. Even Jesus on the
cross asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And before that, in the garden of olives, His
prayer had an implied question, “Father, IF it is possible, let this cup pass
from me…”. We can love St. John here in his moment of crisis, for it
gives us hope when we face our own darkness and questioning. No one born of woman is greater than the
Baptist, so we are in good company if we suffer as he did. May we also turn to Jesus in our critical
moments and receive from Him our answer.
One of our Sisters, meditating on
St. John’s trial wrote the following poem:
The Baptist’s Question
The shining lamp now burning low,
Buried in his dungeon hold,
By dark oppressed he begged to know
If you were he who was foretold.
Justice had been his flaming word-
The cutting ax, the winnowing fan.
But tales of mercy were what he heard-
The saving wine, the Son of Man.
Your faithful friend would understand
Your bridegroom’s festive wedding song.
His flesh foretelling at Herod’s hand
Your righting of the ancient wrong.
Forerunner of your agony,
His dungeon was