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Thought for the Weekend

Fr Patrick McCafferty, Corpus Christi Parish, Belfast

How so very different is the downhearted St John the Baptist, whom we encounter in the Scriptures of the Third Sunday of Advent, from the mighty preacher to whom the crowds flocked in the wilderness of Judaea (Matthew 3:1-6).

With immense love, at the zenith of his wondrous ministry, one day at Bethany, he had drawn the attention of the crowds to a figure coming towards him and proclaimed to all: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (see John 1:26-30).

Yet, on this other particular day, locked up in Herod's dungeon for having borne witness to the truth (see Mark 6:17-29), he sends a message to the Lord Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?" (Matthew 11:2).

The confidence of God's servant has deserted him and yet, still, the Lord Jesus uses the dejection and depression of His faithful messenger to confirm the Gospel with utter clarity: "Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life; and happy is the one who does not lose faith in me" (see Matthew 11:2-11).

The signs of the advent of the Saviour are unmistakable. Emmanuel, proclaimed, announced and yearned for, in the ancient prophecies, is with us (Isaiah 7:14-15). God has visited His people and is their Redeemer, as Zechariah, John's father, had joyfully declared (Luke 1:68).

"Of all the children born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist," said Jesus of His cousin; but He added, "yet the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is" (see Matthew 11:11).

In the Kingdom of Heaven, no one is jockeying for position; there is no worry about favouritism; no one is perturbed at God's exaltation of the weakest and the littlest ones. In the presence of God, there is only peace and joy. One is entirely and completely satisfied there (Psalm 17:15).

Even the greatest of all God's servants can become downhearted and feel hope slipping away; but the word sent from Our Lord, to John's prison cell, would have flooded his soul with light and peace.

When we turn to Jesus, in moments of darkness, His consolations calm our souls (Psalm 94:19). "When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light" (Micah 7:8).

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