Monday, December 14, 2015

I See Him, Though Not Now

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel. Numbers 24:17

When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23

“And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:76-79

Although we are approaching Christmas, the Gospel readings harken to Lent and the challenges that the Pharisees make to Jesus’ authority.  They think that have set an intellectual trap but Jesus is there to turn the theological tables. 

The Pharisees see Jesus.  Yet they fail to understand Jesus.  They think he is just a great teacher and are trying to find out where he gets his authority to speak with such eloquence.  Yet before Jesus falls into the trap that has been set, he agrees to answer the Pharisees if they will answer one question for him.

However, the intellectual hijinks that follows leaves the Pharisees embarrassed and unsure of whether John’s baptism was of human origin or divine origin.  The notes to the NAB explain:  “Since through embarrassment on the one hand and fear on the other the religious authorities claim ignorance of the origin of John’s baptism, they show themselves incapable of speaking with authority; hence Jesus refuses to discuss with them the grounds of his authority.”[i]

The stalemate continues and will not end until at the foot of Pilate’s courthouse. Not now. Not yet. 

Nicole Sotelo turns to today’s saint – St. John of the Cross – to make sense out of the barrage of violence and terrorism in the world. She writes in the National Catholic Reporter:

When my own fears rise, I turn to St. John of the Cross as my guide: a man who knew the brutality of violence. He was also a man who entered into the dark night of the soul in order to find a path that pointed him towards dawn. [ii]

In dealing with the Inquisition, St. John had challenges like we face today.

For nine months John endured torture. For nine months he also prayed.

There, in the middle of his long night, John encountered God, that he called the Beloved. He later wrote, "Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!"

In these transformational encounters with the Divine, John found the courage not to succumb to the violence or respond with violence. Rather, in union with God, he felt encouraged to move beyond his present circumstances.

Who will guide your feet on the path of peace this Advent?  John the Baptist and John of the Cross stand ready.

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