Homily THIRD ADVENT Cycle A St Austin’s December 14/15, 2019
The title of this homily is “EXPECTATIONS” “When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are YOU the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
“Are YOU the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
I find that a strange question. Anyone else find it odd? I mean John the Baptist’s whole ministry, the whole meaning of his existence, was to be the pre-cursor, the one announcing the coming of the Christ and pointing Him out. “Make straight the way of the Lord!” and all that. And yet, John is confused if Jesus is indeed the one?? What’s going on here?
John is expecting something different than what Jesus turned out to be. John expected the Messiah to come with great power to SMITE the Romans, and SMACK the sinners and BLAST the faithless people. John was looking for displays of power that were dramatic and explosive and loud and bodies flying everywhere, just like in many recent Hollywood action films. Last Sunday’s Gospel tells us John’s message: “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire!” This is apocalyptic speech. This is fire and brimstone! This is dramatic judgement and smiting of sinners. And that is what John expects.
But that is not what John is hearing about Jesus. It confuses him. John is in prison, so he can’t check it out himself. So, John calls some disciples, we know it was two disciples from the Gospel of Luke, and John sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Jesus gives John’s disciples an unexpected answer: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
The messengers presumably reported their message to John.
What did John think? What did John feel? Well, at first, probably, John was not at all happy. He had made his whole career out of proclaiming a day of judgement, with lots of wrath and upheaval.
John was really into it and anxious and eager for the justice of God to fall from the heavens and smite the unbelievers, the sinners, the persecutors of Israel. He really wanted to see that.
Instead Jesus is healing people, and feeding people, and giving them His “Peace.” // John was a tough, hard, rugged manly guy; and this caring, compassionate, forgiving Jesus was, frankly, not up to his expectations. John was … disappointed.
But John, sitting in his prison cell, prayed. He reflected more deeply on the prophecies of Isaiah. John opened his heart to the Holy Spirit. And shortly before he was beheaded by Herod, John completed the hard work of letting go of his own expectations and opening himself to God’s expectations, that were so strange, and so unexpected, but also so wonderful. //
What are your expectations of Jesus? Do you expect Him to solve your problems? To keep you from harm? To provide what you need? To smite your enemies? To watch over your family? Or do you not expect much at all from Jesus?
All of us, like John the Baptist, have skewed and false expectations of Jesus. We don’t even know what we should be expecting from Jesus. He doesn’t promise us comfort, nor prosperity, nor good health, nor protection for our family and loved ones, nor world peace, nor ease. We pray for these things. Perhaps the Lord will grant them. But we don’t expect any of that.
What Jesus does promise us is FREEDOM. Freedom from sin to live freely as the children of God. Regardless of what happens, regardless of what we have or what we lose, regardless of what we expect, regardless of any disappointments or injustices in life, Jesus offers us the freedom of the children of God. We are still, always, the children of God. And God ultimately will take care of us, not in our ways, not according to our plans and expectations, but according to God’s wonderful and mysterious love for each one of us.
This is what Jesus offers us. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Him. AMEN.