A blessing to others

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

3rd Sunday of Advent

Though the Evangelist John said that it was John the Baptist who pointed Jesus out to the people at the start of His ministry, saying, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29), there is no suggestion in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke that the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Messiah. In fact, in last Sunday's gospel reading we heard the fiery John tell people what the coming Messiah would be, namely, a stringent judge who would bring about a fiery judgment: "His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire" (Mt. 3:12).

But later and from his prison cell — for denouncing King Herod for divorcing his wife and marrying his brother's wife afterwards, — John heard the complete opposite of what he thought about the Messiah. Jesus was not only not breathing fire on the crowd but also appeared to be kindness personified and for which reason, people, specially the poor, flocked to Him. To clear his doubt, he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask Jesus the most central question about Him: "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"

In response, Jesus told John's disciples, "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." John, knowing his Scriptures, must have realized that this was a direct quotation from the prophet Isaiah as he spoke about "the one who is to come" (Isa. 35: 5–6).

But more than just making John re–examine his understanding of the Messiah, Jesus wanted Him to consider his healing and preaching of the good news to the poor as His credentials for being the Messiah. For in these messianic acts the prophecies were being fulfilled and thus the time of salvation was at hand. This is the reason why Jesus, after publicly praising, added, "Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." In effect, Jesus wanted John not "take offense" if Jesus is not what he expected Him to be. This is also Jesus' message for us.

At times, like John the Baptist, we question God's existence or at least have doubts about Him. During then President Estrada's "all–out war" against the MILF (ethnic rebels in the Philippines) last year, we stormed heaven with prayers for its end. Yet the end took a long time to come. Meanwhile, hundreds of non–combatants were injured or killed while tens of thousand others left their homes and languished in evacuation centers. Or when a loved one is seriously sick, we pray for his recovery. Yet he dies. So we ask, "Is God not all powerful? If so, why does He not answer our prayers?" As if God is an automatic soft drink dispenser Who gives as a glass of cold drink at the push of a button.

Yes, God is all powerful. But as Jesus experienced during His ministry, His exercise of power, e.g., miracles, did not always bring about the desired effect, namely, that people accept Him in faith. Rather, they followed Him not because He was the One Who was to come but because of what He could give them — healing. In effect, they wanted the gift but not the Giver of the gift. Definitely, Jesus did not want that.

Yes, too, God answers all our prayers. His answer is either "yes" if what we ask for is good for us, "no" if it is bad for us or "not yet" if it will do us good only in the future. And He wants us to persevere in our prayer which ultimately means to desire what God wants for us and not what we want from Him.

To convince John of His choice, Jesus showed Him His credentials: the messianic work of healing and preaching. Though ultimately His greatest credential for our acceptance of Him in faith was His dying for our redemption, these days — the season of Advent — He wants us to look at one of His earlier credentials: Son of God though He was, He allowed Himself to be born of a woman and in a dirty and smelly manger at that. This so that no one will ever think that poverty is an obstacle to membership in His Kingdom.

On Christmas day, we wish each other "A Blessed Christmas!" Blessed because Jesus has become God's blessing for us, specially for the poor — which we all are spiritually. So let us now ask ourselves: "Are we a blessing to others, too?" To answer this question, we have to ask ourselves another question, namely, "What good have we done for them?" These will then become our credentials before God.

As we continue our preparation for the birthday of our Savior during Advent, let us do more good to others so that we will acquire better credentials which we will then lovingly lay before the manger as our birthday gift to the Babe Jesus, the newly born Messiah.