John’s Messengers

Luke 7:18b-23
Isa 45:6c-8,18,21c-25 / Ps 85

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.
(Luke 7:23)

Whatever our troubles may be,
Trust that we are in good company;
In due time God will make us see
They were vital to our destiny.

John the Baptist called two of his disciples and sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7:18b-23)

Reflection

John the Baptist was the first cousin of Jesus. Like the Lord, he was already infused with the Holy Spirit even when he was still in his mother’s womb. He was considered the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first prophet of the New. As the precursor and foremost herald of the Messiah, nobody, aside from the Blessed Mother herself, knew Jesus better than he did. So why was he seemingly in doubt about the true nature and mission of the Lord?

First of all, we must remember that St. John was in Herod’s prison at that time, and he had no way of communicating directly with Jesus. He was probably getting a bit desperate about his situation and wondering why, if Jesus could raise the dead to life, he could not or would not liberate him from his imprisonment. Like most of the Jews, he looked upon Jesus as the Messiah who would lead them in overcoming the hated Roman occupation forces and re-establishing the kingdom of David, His ancestor. He was therefore at a loss, and wanted confirmation about the Messiah’s true mission by sending his two apostles to Jesus.

Our Lord’s response to St. John’s messengers was a subtle reminder to him that He was indeed Who the prophet Isaiah had foretold: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute shout for joy.” (Isa.35:5-6) St. John therefore would also recall that Jesus was the “Suffering Servant” that Isaiah also prophesied: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (53:3-6)

There are despairing times in our lives when we may feel that God has left us to fend for ourselves as punishment for our sins, or for some other reason that He would only disclose in His own good time. It is during such difficult times when Jesus asks us to put our full faith in Him, as He asked of His beloved cousin, John the Baptist. He could as easily have saved him, just as the Father could have changed His plans when Jesus prayed to Him in the garden of Gethsemane. But the mystery of salvation involved the way of the cross, which only the most privileged servant leaders of God shared with His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The lives of all the greatest saints and martyrs followed a similar path as that of our Lord and St. John the Baptist. Whatever your “trials and tribulations” may be, be consoled to know that you are in good company. Trust that God has a good reason for allowing them to happen to us. In due time, we will reap the harvest of our suffering.

Grant us, O Lord, the grace to persevere in our faith when trials come, and our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears. May the example of St. John the Baptist give us the hope and consolation that our spiritual salvation is vastly more important than our temporal needs. Amen.

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