Gospel: Matt 11:2-11
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?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“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.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Not too long ago, our cable went out. I wear many hats at home and on occasion I have to play the role of the IT guy. I tried the usual things to get our cable going but got nowhere. So I had to call Comcast. I navigated through their phone system until I finally got a hold of an actual person. I’ll be honest, I was pretty frustrated at not being able to fix our cable and going through the tedious process of finally getting someone on the phone really didn’t help matters. So after I gave the fellow on the other end of the line my account information, I let him know what the problem was. The rest of the conversation went a little like this with the man saying, “We are going to have to reset your modem.” I told him, “You mean unplugging it then plugging it back in again? I already did that.” His response, “What happened after you did that?” I said, “Well, being that you and I are on the phone together might be an indication that unplugging it then plugging it back in again didn’t fix the problem.” He then asked, “So it’s still not working?” At this point, I could tell that my level of frustration had gotten to the point where my patience had been compromised. So, I paused then took a breath then said, “Correct, it’s still not working.” He replied with, “Would you like to schedule an appoint to have someone come out and take a look at it?” My response to him was a very sarcastic, “Actually, no, I don’t want to have someone come out. I’d like to pay to have cable, internet, and a phone but just have none of them working.” Now, Tatiana, my oldest was within earshot. Her reaction to my comment? “Dad!! Aren’t you supposed to be a deacon?!” And you know what? She was right.
I let my frustration dictate the way I treated someone who was ultimately trying to help me. I was not nice nor kind. I am fully aware that my role as clergy holds me to a different standard. A standard, I am embarrassed to say I fell short of meeting. Now, the Comcast guy had no way of knowing that I was a deacon but my daughter sure did. And she wanted to see her dad treat someone graciously. She wanted to see an authentic display of goodness.
In today’s gospel we hear of John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus to see if Jesus was indeed the messiah. When they meet Jesus, they ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus responds with having them relay to John what they see. The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Authentic displays of goodness. The disciples of John were looking for the good that would accompany the true messiah. After all, it was the mission of John the Baptist to let people know that the Christ, the anointed one was coming. John’s disciples wanted to experience firsthand God’s righteousness.
Jesus then addresses the crowds. He asked them, “What did you come out to see?” A prince or a prophet? John was a fiery preacher who spoke of sin and repentance. The people who ventured out into the desert to seek out John the Baptist were in search of authentic goodness and truth. They sought out a man who could provide some insight that might bring them closer to God.
This is something that we all share. The disciples who followed John the Baptist, the crowds who flocked to see John and all of us gathered here, me included. We all seek to surround ourselves with true, authentic goodness. However, being followers of Christ means that we are not simply observers of goodness, we are obliged to take an active role in its manifestation. Simply put, we are called to model good in the same fashion that Jesus did. And going back to the little story I shared with you, it means that even when we are not inclined to feel charitable or gracious, for whatever the reason, it becomes even more important that we display a virtuous gesture of love.
The reality is this, in the same way that the disciples of John sought to see if Jesus was the one for which they were seeking, those surrounding us, our circles of family and friends are looking to each us for that same sense of good. We have a responsibility to model mercy, forgiveness, charity, and compassion at every opportunity. Believe me; I know that this isn’t easy. To always express love no matter the circumstance, no matter how we are feeling may truly be one of the hardest things we could ever do. To express patience when we are frustrated, forgiveness when we have been hurt, mercy when we don’t feel it is deserved, love when we know it might not be appreciated. None of this is easy. But know this. Jesus knew how his ministry would end. Scripture tells us that he was aware of the pain and suffering that he was to endure. And knowing this, Jesus chose love and sacrifice.
We are in the midst of Advent. A time when we commemorate the coming of Jesus. A time to reflect on what his presence means to us. It is also a time when we could extend his presence beyond the walls of this church so that others may experience Christ’s presence by our authentic displays of goodness.