This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]
Third Sunday of Advent
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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?”
Tough Times. Tough time can make us question everything. They can also make us question everyone.
John was a loyal and committed servant of the Lord. But I have no doubt that prison may have left him feeling lonely and fearful, especially because he was innocent!
What kept him going were the words of the great prophet Isaiah: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee” (Is 35:1-6a, 10).
The Lord’s response must have been music to John’s ears: “Go tell John: 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. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Or was it?
Take it from here. The disciples returned to John and gave him the rundown. And he died happily ever after. End of story, right? Maybe, and maybe not. Yeah, we all like honest people and like to be surrounded by them. But we don’t always like what we hear because it may conflict with what we think needs to be said and done. Did John like what he heard?
John was a fireball of a prophet. He knew how to get his audience’s attention. He dressed up for the occasion. He gave great sermons: fire and brimstone sermons. In summary, he scared the “hell” out of a lot of people. But his powerful “introduction” to the Lord’s Mission was, well, let’s say, a bit fanatical: “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…”
I am sure the Lord was very much appreciative of John’s “opening remarks”; but from all accounts, it appears as though the Lord set a different tone to his mission, at least for the time being. Rather than cutting down unproductive “trees,” the Lord watered them and watched them grow.
We all have our idea (or model) of what it takes to be successful. What is yours? Is it similar to the Lord’s? Or do you think you need to look somewhere else?
Recently, a priest asked me if I would speak to a group of kids from his parish. I told him I would. But then I asked him why he asked me. He said, “Well, you have a way of speaking to kids. They can really relate to you.” This friend of mine overestimates me and underestimates himself. Although he came to America as a teenager, his English is not the best. But as he spoke softly and deliberately, I recalled a lesson I learned while I was in Rome.
Once upon a time, I was directing a retreat for a group of middle school kids. There were so many of them I asked my superior for some additional help. He gave me a seminarian who was very shy and extremely intellectual. Given my audience, I thought his choice was a very poor choice. But I didn’t say anything. When it came time to talk, I was my usual self: I walked up and down the aisle, told lots of stories, and tried to be as humorous and lighthearted as possible. The kids liked it. When it came time for him to give his talk, he too was his usual self: he got up slowly from his chair, had a faint smile on his face, looked very shy, spoke very softly and deliberately, didn’t tell any stories, but I could tell he was speaking from the heart. He said one thing that got my attention. Very slowly he said: “Jesus…would like you…to be…a saint.” He got my attention and brought tears to my eyes.
When it came time for the kids to say goodbye to us; again, I noticed something remarkable. They came up to me very informally and with big smiles on their faces. When they said goodbye to my classmate, they were very reserved, respectful and courteous, as if they were saying goodbye to a holy man.
John the Baptist complimented Jesus of Nazareth, but he wasn’t Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord needed John’s fiery words and humble service, but he didn’t need him forever. We need Jesus’ words and service forever! We need him to take our lives from here.
I told this story to my priest friend and told him not to fear; and that if he spoke slowly and from the heart and he would be perfectly understood and very much appreciated. I think it surprised him. It might not have been what he wanted to hear, but I encouraged him to try it out.
The secret to personal success is to align oneself faithfully, honestly and wholeheartedly to the Lord. In other words, let Him take you from here. (90)