Questions... and answers. 3rd Sunday of Advent

It would be poignant from anyone; from John the Baptist, it’s breathtaking. “Are you the one we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for another?” No matter how many times I read or hear this, there is something breathtaking about it. John is… well, he’s John, he’s the greatest among the Prophets, the Forerunner, the Harbinger, the Herald, the cousin of Jesus, the soon-to-be martyr.

That was all in perfect focus in John’s most defining moment as he pointed across the Jordan River and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

But that was then, that bright glorious day with Jesus in plain view in front of him, and this is a very different moment. John is in jail. He’s in a place of darkness and shadow, a place where Jesus is far away, a place where the price is being paid in solitude and silence. He is here because of Jesus. Soon he will die. John is a man who has staked everything on Jesus. He has staked everything on the man he is now asking: “Are you the one?”

Let that sink in and hear the questions behind the question. Are you the one or have I been wrong about everything? Are you the one or am I the most pathetic man who ever lived? Are you the one or am I about to die for nothing? Are you the one?

Or have I wasted my life?

Breathtaking. Please feel that… and if you ever have a moment like this, don’t take that as a sign that your faith is weak. It’s exactly the opposite. It proves that, like John, you’ve staked something on Jesus. It proves how much Jesus matters to you.

And when someone who trusted Him and staked everything on Him has this desperate moment, how does Jesus answer? He doesn’t tell the messengers, “tell John I’m really disappointed in him and that he should have more faith.” Nor does he ask John, or anyone else, to believe in Him without a reason. He says, “Tell John what you have seen and heard.” Which is… what? Power. Not the stupid power of the world, which is just fancy clothes and reeds following the prevailing winds, but real saving power. The blind see, captives are freed, and at long last, for once, it’s the poor who get some good news.

When your heart questions, answer the same way. What have you seen and heard? Have you seen Jesus set captives free? Have you seen Jesus give sight where there was blindness? Have you heard a message of good news in your poverty? What difference have you seen Him make? And what difference has He made to you? I can’t doubt that power I’ve seen in people who follow Jesus Christ, and even if I could, I couldn’t doubt it looking in the mirror. What would you say? If you were that messenger that day, and Jesus asked you to tell John why he should trust Him, what would you say?

That would be a profound hypothetical question to ponder. Only trouble is, there’s nothing hypothetical about it. We are in exactly that position. Everyone around us is looking for salvation. Some people are looking in places that bring them misery and harm. Some people are open to whether there might be anything to this ‘Jesus’ stuff. Others, well, that would be the very last place they’d ever look for the peace and joy and freedom they long for.

But wherever they’re starting from, no one who doesn’t already believe in Jesus Christ is going to believe until they see for themselves, until they encounter His power. How does that happen for someone?

Sometimes Jesus approaches people directly, like calling to Zaccheus in the tree or knocking over Paul on the road to Damascus. But sometimes — I think it’s safe to say much more often — He sends witnesses. Like He sent the messengers to John in prison, today He sends us to the world. Why? Because we’re the ones the world is asking. We’re the Christians, and the world has every right to ask us, “Is Jesus the one I'm looking for? Why should I believe He is?”

And the only convincing response we can give is what we’ve seen and heard. Someone who doesn’t see any reason to pay attention to the Bible just might pay attention to you. Someone who would casually dismiss the writings of the Pope or the Catechism or the Saints just might find it harder to dismiss you, someone they know, telling them the difference Jesus has made to you.

This witness isn’t just something we give to people who we want to invite to belief. John the Baptist is a believer! Sometimes we all need reassurance and encouragement, and we give it to each other in the Body of Christ. And not only the living: I’ve been reading St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Catherine of Siena and they’ve been witnessing to me, encouraging me so much. I wish all my family and friends, everyone living in my parishes, everyone in the world would read and listen to them! They’re millions of times better witnesses than me. But our families and friends and neighbors and coworkers don’t know Therese and Catherine. If there is any part of their heart, anywhere deep inside silently asking “Is Jesus the one I’ve been looking for?,” then we’re the ones being silently asked.

I’ve seen captives freed, sight replacing blindness, poverty filled with grace and healing. Have you? Then let’s tell the world what we’ve seen and heard, and each other when we all sometimes need encouragement and reassurance. The world is asking us, and we need the support from each other. Remember what you've seen and heard. Jesus is the one you’re looking for.

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