Thursday - 2nd Week of Advent
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
you do not abandon those who rely on you.
Take us by the hand when we are afraid,
help us when we call out to you,
for we experience that we are powerless
to establish your kingdom of justice and love.
Send your Son again among us today
to be our Lord and Saviour
now and for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 11, 11-15
'In truth I tell you, of all the children born to women, there has never been anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.
Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading;
and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return.
Anyone who has ears should listen!
• In today’s Gospel, Jesus, gives an opinion on John the Baptist. Compared with the persons of the Old Testament, there is no one greater than John. John is the greatest of all: greater than Jeremiah, greater than Abraham, greater than Isaiah! But, compared with the New Testament, John is inferior to all. The smallest in the Kingdom is greater than John! How can we understand this qualification, apparently contradictory, that Jesus makes of John?
• A short time before, John had sent to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?” (Mt 11, 3). John seemed to have some doubt concerning Jesus. Jesus, in fact, did not correspond to the idea that he, John, had of the Messiah, a severe Judge who had to come to carry out the judgment of condemnation and of anger (Mt 3, 7). He was to cut the trees from their roots (Mt 3, 10), was to clear his threshing floor and throw the dry stick into the fire (Mt 3, 12). But Jesus, instead of being a severe judge, is the friend of all, “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11, 29), he receives the sinners and eats with them (Mt 2, 16).
• Jesus responds to John by quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin diseases are cleaned, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed to the poor, and blessed is anyone who does not find me a cause of falling!” (Mt 11, 5-6; cf. Is 33, 5-6; 29, 18). A hard response. Jesus asks John to analyze the Scripture better in order to be able to change the erroneous vision that he had of the Messiah.
• John was great! The greatest of all! And the smallest in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John. John is the greatest, because he was the last echo of the Old Testament. It was John who, because of his fidelity, was finally able to indicate the Messiah to the people: “Behold, here is the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1, 36), and the long history begun with Abraham attains its objective. But John was not capable to understand by himself the importance of the Kingdom of God in Jesus. He had a doubt: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?” The ancient history alone, does not communicate sufficient light to the person to understand all the novelty of the Good News of God which Jesus brings to us. The New was not in the Old. Saint Augustine said: “Novum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet”, which means: “The New is already hidden in the Old. But the Old reveals only its full meaning in the New”. The one who is with Jesus and lives with him receives from him a light which gives new eyes to discover a more profound meaning in the Old. And which is this novelty?
• Jesus offers a key: “The Law and all the Prophets, in fact, have prophesized up to John. And if you would accept it, he is that Elijah who has to come. He who has ears, let him hear!” Jesus does not explain, but says: “He who has ears, let him hear” Elijah had to come to prepare the coming of the Messiah and to reconstruct the community: “To reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents” (Mal 3, 24). John announced the Messiah and sought to reconstruct the community (Lk 1, 17). But the most profound mystery escaped him, that of the life of the community. Only Jesus communicated it, announcing that God is Father and, therefore, we are all brothers and sisters. This announcement bears within a new force which makes us capable to overcome divergence and to create community.
• These are the violent who succeed to conquer the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not a doctrine, but a new way of living like brothers and sisters, beginning from the announcement which Jesus makes: God is Father of all.
4) Personal questions
• The Kingdom is of those who use violence on themselves, that is, it belongs to those who like Jesus have the courage to create community. You also?
• Jesus helped John to understand better the facts by means of the Bible. Does the Bible help me to understand better the events of my life?
5) Concluding Prayer
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works. (Ps 145)