The gospel reading this Sunday once more focuses our attention on the person and mission of John the Baptist. John is the New Testament prophet of the Advent season, as Isaiah is the Old Testament prophet.
When this gospel episode related this Sunday took place, John the Baptist was already in prison, for preaching against King Herod Antipas who had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, in contravention of the Jewish Law, something that Antipas should have been upholding, not violating. Now in prison, and realizing he would not be released, John knew his work was over, his mission completed. But who was the one God was sending, the one for whom John had been called to prepare the way?
Note Jesus’ response to the disciples of John. He quotes from Isaiah 35:5-6, today’s first reading. By that moment in history, the signs from Isaiah 35 were considered indicators of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus basically tells John’s disciples, “Go tell John what is taking place. He’ll be able to read the signs.”
Are we able to ‘read the signs of the times’? The vociferous fundamentalist preachers of God as an avenging, judgemental God are not making any headway in convincing non-believers to come to Christ. In the Middle East, in countries like Israel, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, people are coming to faith in Christ, in their thousands, as they see him performing miracle after miracle, without force or intimidation, in the way that their religious and political leaders are using such methods to force an adherence to Islam. How strong is our faith in Christ as Messiah, God’s Anointed One, to bring salvation to the world?