The Gospel according to Matthew (11:11-15)
Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, our troubled world needs what it cannot find among all its achievements. You are the way, truth, and life, help us to listen to your quiet voice amid the chaos and respond with hearts open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Encountering Christ: I consider myself a person of average intelligence. In school I was a solid “C” student. An occasional “B” was cause for notice and an “A”, for celebration. One of the things that frustrated me the most were word problems. My mind would get tangled in the details and I would soon give up because I never much cared whether train A got to the station before train B!
Today’s gospel reminds me of that confusion. At one point Jesus says there has been no one greater than John the Baptist. Then says the least in the Kingdom is greater than he!??? So, who is greater, John or the least in the Kingdom?
Jesus was great at turning things upside down. He came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. So, where does that leave us or lead us? We know that John lived an austere life, clothed in camel’s hair, eating locust and wild honey. Yet he was the one who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. A simple man with no material status or possessions.
When Jesus was amongst us he came as a helpless babe to parents of little means. When he began his ministry he gathered simple men to help him. He attracted and spent time with the outcast of society. He tended to the sick and others who had no one to rely on. He bypassed dignitaries and leaders and spoke with authority. His mission always was and is for those who are on the bottom of the world’s order of worth.
And another perplexing element of God’s rescue plan for humanity never included a replacement for the powerful of this earth. He did not intend to end suffering and hardship. If he did, we would not have to live through tragedies such as the senseless taking of innocent lives, the holocaust that is abortion, terminal illness of every kind and pandemics. His desire was to save us not from the perils of this world but from the death and destruction of sin and its ravages.
We may not have prophets like we did in the past. We do not have a modern-day John the Baptist who is rousing everyone to repent and prepare the way. What we do have is Emmanuel, God with us. Everyday in the Holy Eucharist if we want. We have Mother Church, who with all her flaws and faults, is still the church established by Christ. We have the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who reminds, guides, and teaches. We have each other even though we continue to fall short of our spiritual potential.
We are among the least and even though we need to be reminded often, are the apple of God’s eye. We are his beloved. He came, lived, taught, sacrificed everything for us, blessed us with many graces, and one day will return. Will our hearts be on fire?
Closing Prayer: Good and gracious God, we are grateful for your mercy, patience, and fidelity. Our hearts ache for relief from our individual and communal suffering. May we find the peace that only you can provide and ease the pain of our brothers and sisters where there is the most need.
Action for the Day: The harvest is plentiful but the workers few. Without looking to others for solutions be the change you want to see in all your environments. Relying on the grace of God make a difference in someone’s day.