Please pray for Fr Gordon J. MacRae and all who are unjustly accused and imprisoned.

A number of thoughts came to mind today during Holy Mass. I am always intrigued by the apparent doubts of St John the Baptist, when he sends messengers to Jesus to ask him if he was “the one,” the real thing, the big tamale, or … if Jesus was only one more prophet in a chain leading to the Messiah. In typical Jewish fashion the answer is: “yes, and no.”

Here’s what the Gospel of St Matthew has to say about that event:

Matthew 11:2-11 – “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Try to imagine the scene. Jesus was apparently teaching when the messengers from the Baptist arrived, perhaps interrupting the teaching. At the point the followers of Jesus were for the most part, former followers of the Baptist. That is why Jesus asks them that question, after the messengers depart carrying the cryptic answer to their teacher. Let us also remember that the one holding John the Baptist in prison is Herod, a descendant of the other, previous Herod who put the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem to the sword. In doing so, that Herod unwittingly made sure that no one could claim to be  from the Messiah’s hometown. It was the end of the prophesied seventy weeks and anyone could have checked as a possible candidate but alas! Herod had killed them all but one: Jesus. These events also fulfilled another obscure prophecy given to King David, who was born in Bethlehem: “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” [1]

We are also familiar with the visitation of Our Blessed Mother to St Elizabeth, the occasion when Mary filled with the Holy Spirit gave us the glorious Magnificat. [2] In that scene two women meet, both supernaturally pregnant: Mary is carrying Jesus, and her elder cousin Elizabeth is carrying John the Baptist who is, we are told, six months older than Jesus. Look at the symmetry of the scene, an older, formerly barren woman, is pregnant miraculously at a time she is way past the age of bearing children. On the other side a young maid is pregnant although she is still a virgin. To add one more marvelous touch to that odd scene, the children in their wombs recognize each other. It is in that moment –meditate on this the next time you pray these mysteries in the Holy Rosary– when all trace of original sin is removed from St John the Baptist, he is going to be sinless and pure, dedicated to God from the womb. That information is carefully concealed in Jesus’ phrase: “among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Moses, Samuel, and all the great prophets of Israel were all born from women. Jesus is therefore telling the crowd that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever sent to Israel until then.

Jesus also adds the mysterious touch: John the Baptist is the greatest ever but anyone of you hearing me here, even the little ones in the Kingdom of the Heavens, is greater than him. To drive the point home, Jesus answers the Baptist’s question plainly. Those who came asking got a riddle but the crowd gets an almost straight confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah when he says, quoting the messianic text of Malachi 3: “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.” There is never a dull moment listening to Our Lord, isn’t it?

What about the “yes and no” answer we left floating there at the beginning of these thoughts? The answer is a riddle: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

Intelligenti pauca, the Romans used to say. Little information suffices for those who are smart. The Baptist understood that those were signs indicating that Christ was the Messiah. John also learned that he had to reach the lowest level of his decreasing before Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” [3] In those few words John knew that the end of his life was near, he had to clear the way for “the one that is to come” because he was already there. The two men were again at the gate, no longer in their mothers’ wombs. This was the gate of a new age. A cruel death was waiting for both of them. Unbeknownst to the rulers of mankind, the unstoppable Kingdom of God had landed.

The same sword that took the life of the Holy Innocents cut off the noble, sinless head of the Baptist. His followers now gathered around Jesus but their expectations were not going to be met right away.

James 5:7-10 – Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The early disciples expected Jesus to bring the Kingdom of God immediately. They did not get the hint when Jesus told them that the Kingdom is like a mustard seed.

Matthew 13: 31-32 – Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

It will take time to grow the Kingdom, from the tiny seed that falls to the earth, a symbol of Jesus’ body buried after Calvary, that grows after the Resurrection into a glorious Church that will conquer and vanquish many enemies until it grows so large that only the Holy Angels can serve to its many branches.

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 – The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

These last verses prove that anyone found worthy to live in the Kingdom of God is much greater than John the Baptist, for John had to preach in the desert about the upcoming wrath of God and His day of justice, while the children of the Kingdom will see God turn every desert into a garden of joy. The desert turned garden will be the greatest homily ever preached to mankind. All the victims of evildoing, all the martyrs of times past will be avenged. There will be no more bland homilies, no more “gay priests” – no more wickedness will have to be “tolerated” for the sake of political correctness – the kings ruling the Earth will be the just rulers of a happy people. The horrible record of human history has been bloody enough, long enough, unjust enough to prove God right.

Glory to Him that is for ever and ever. Glory to Him in His Saints and His Angels. Amen.

[1] 2 Samuel 12:10.
[2] Luke 1:46-55.
[3] John 3:30.