CANON GERRY CONROY
I don’t know what John the Baptist expected from Christ, but I think he raises an important question for us on our spiritual journey and that is what exactly do we expect from God? I presume John’s question of Christ was something along the lines of why isn’t he seizing power and chastising the wicked and supporting the just. Why wasn’t the salvation they had been awaiting for so long being more clearly seen, more powerfully present. I suppose he was, like many of us, confused that despite Christ’s coming, that despite all our prayers and effort, the world and our lives seemed to be going along as before and there was no great change to it all.
That is what we seem to expect from God also; great signs and wonders that will change things, action that will do away with all injustice and evil, that will make an end of suffering and death. God should do all that simply by clicking his fingers and he should do it quickly. Is that expectation that we have of God so wrong?
If that is indeed the expectation of John the Baptist, if it is an expectation we also share, the meaning of the response of Christ to John is also something we need to consider. Christ points out to John that there is a fulfilment of the prophecies with the healing of the sick and the proclamation of the Good News and the dead are raised to life, but when Jesus goes on to say blessed is the one who does not lose faith in me, that would seem to suggest that God is doing something else. His plan is not simply to bring about external changes in our world, his plan is centred on changing our hearts. That is a long difficult road and it requires patience; patience from God and patience from us.
So, John the Baptist was asked to trust, to be patient, just as we are asked to trust and be patient.Trust is not easy because it involves surrender of something of ourselves that very often we want to hold onto, perhaps it is our independence, or it may be that we think we will have to surrender our intellectual honesty, it may be that we feel our whole sense of ourselves is challenged. More than anything however, trust involves some sort of surrender of ourselves to another. It doesn’t mean we give up our intelligence or our identity, but it does mean that we allow into our lives someone who because of who they are will have an influence on our lives. Trust opens our life to the life of another. It is not the end of the journey of faith; it is really the beginning of the journey, a decision to walk through life in the company of another, allowing our understanding of life to be influenced by theirs, just as they allow themselves to be influenced by ours. And when you think of it, that is the wonder of what we are preparing to celebrate: how the eternal Son of God chose to submit himself to our life with all its limits and and sorrows and sufferings, to submit even to death sot hat we would come to share in his life.
It is not such a difficult thing to be asked: to trust and walk with Christ when the reward is so great, when he has first shown us so much love as to walk with us.