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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Fr. Warren's Week Reflection: Signs for All to See?

Franciscan Friars
Signs for All to See?
(Matthew 11:2-11)
Our gospel tells us of John the Baptist in his prison. He's puzzled. Maybe a little disappointed. Like many Jews, he expected the Messiah to be a fiery social reformer. He does not quite see this in Jesus, but he isn't sure, and so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the promised Messiah or do we have to look for another?"
Jesus does not come out with a flat 'yes'. He invites John to answer his own questions. He tells the questioners, "Look around and see for yourselves. Remember the prediction of Isaiah, the works the Messiah will perform at his coming, then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb leap for joy?" In that light, Jesus says, "Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind received their sight, and the lame walk. Lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear. The dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them." Very simple, Jesus answers John. "Do you want to know if the Christ has come? Look around you. The signs are there for all to see."
If an unbeliever were to come to ask you for evidence that the Messiah had come, what sign would you point to? Where is the Kingdom, the peace, the redemption promised in the Old Testament? Where is the Kingdom of Truth and Life? Where is the Kingdom of Holiness and Grace? Where is the Kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace? Where is it? That does not sound like our world. The world we see night after night on the evening news or read in our papers. Can these be the Messianic times? When three out of every four human beings do not know Christ? When one out of every four goes to bed hungry in this land of plenty? Our infant mortality rate is higher than Cuba's? When violence is a way of life and the numbers of the drug addicted grow daily, and we build more prisons? In a world that has been redeemed by Christ, why are so many people so ruthless, so pitiless, so loveless? Did Christ's coming make any difference in our world? The answer is that without Christ, nothing would make sense at all.
Perhaps, the most wonderful words ever written by our Church come to us from Vatican II. The document reads, "The joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." The Church is believable when its love is visible. Sometimes we fail to realize that we are the Church, and what we do the Church does, and what we fail to do, the Church fails to do, and as Christians, we have an awesome responsibility, ever since Christ left this world. It is we who have to let the world see that He who is to come has actually come, and that He is still here, and that He made a difference.
We are the works that reveal or conceal Him, because of us, people should know or at least suspect that Christ came on this earth for them. That He lived and died for them. You may not be able to reveal Him as radically as a Francis or a Paul, but, by the way we live our everyday lives, people should know that we follow the one who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." We need to realize that every day, some part of God's reign is happening even as much suffering remains. The biblical prophesies are being fulfilled, there is hope in the valley of tears. The blind are given their sight, not only in hospitals, but in schools and wherever a child or adult is taught the miracle of reading.
I am privileged to know many people who work miracles every day. There are many Mother Teresas in the world. God's Kingdom is indeed being built. There are many, many instances of people helping people. As time goes on, you come to realize that our lives and human history is made up of light and darkness. Terrible things and wonderful things. Finally, we make a choice, on the one hand, we can give up on God and all the nice promises we read in the Bible.
The gospel for this third Sunday of Advent would indicate that John the Baptist was close to giving up. Here you see him, the prisoner of a despotic king, soon to die because of the whim of a young girl who asks for his head on a platter. No wonder he utters a cry of near despair, "Are you He who is to come or do we look for another." At times we echo that cry or feel discouragement, but on the other hand, we can see the good things that are happening in the world, and the people who are Christ's own, making them happen. People who know that many things on this earth are precious. Some are even holy, but humanity is holy of holies.
There is no way to explain the Mother Teresas in this world and all those countless numbers who unselfishly do the work of the Lord on Earth. They are heroes and selfless people who possess that power that believers call the presence of God or His spirit... His grace. The goodness of those who follow Him or do His work is a sign of the Kingdom, a sign that He is alive.
We all have to ask ourselves from time to time, does our faith life reveal to anyone that Christ's Kingdom is in the making, that the prophesies are being fulfilled now with our help? Does our faith redeem anyone from enslavement? Does it help feed anyone? Heal anyone? Can they point to you as a sign of the Kingdom?
In the Scriptures we read, the Virgin shall be with Child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call Him Emmanuel... a name which means God is with us. God is with us through it all. With that knowledge, can we say with Mary, "Be it done unto me according to Your word"?
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
P.O. Box 301, Garrison, NY 10524
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