Advent Week 3 – Wednesday
Isaiah 45:6ff. A glorious portrayal of the true, living God, creator of all. “I am the Lord, and there is no other. ”
Luke 7:18ff. In reply to John’s question ‘Are you the one who is to come?’ Jesus points to his healing ministry, in confirmation.
First Reading: Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25
They shall know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it.
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is no one besides me.
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ” Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.
Gospel: Luke 7:18-23
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'” Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me. ”
God’s mysterious ways
According to Isaiah, the Lord creates both light and darkness, well-being and woe. These contrary forces of human existence meet in another way in the Gospel. John the Baptist, already imprisoned by Herod the Tetrarch (Matt 11:2) and surrounded by darkness and woe, sends messengers to Jesus. The question put to Jesus reveals further darkness and quandary in John the Baptist, “Are you ‘He who is come’ or are we to expect someone else?” Jesus replied in a burst of energy and sunlight:
Go and report to John . . . The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead people are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.
John the Baptist was reassured that Jesus is the promised one by extraordinary works of compassion. Yet these marvelous acts of deliverance were denied to John the Baptist who was left in prison, soon to be executed because of the scheming revenge of Herodias and the weakness of the Tetrarch.
Today’s Scripture places clearly before us the biblical expectation of faith: we are to believe that Jesus is the Lord of both life and death, of both light and darkness, of both strength and weakness. Both phenomena require a strong faith. We can be swept away by joy and prosperity and totally forget the presence of God. We can be embittered by pain and disappointment and rebel against God. If we are sick, we must believe that Jesus can cure us, even though he deliberately decides not to do so, just as he left John the Baptist in prison. If we are in good health, we must believe that it is God’s gift to be shared and expended for others.
In both cases we are faced with a mystery of faith. As such, no amount of reasoning can explain why God creates and directs darkness and woe equally as much as he forms light and well-being. We can investigate the universe without finding an adequate clue to this mystery. At such a time we find out how impossible it is for us to comprehend God’s decisions. The same prophet of the Babylonian exile who wrote today’s first reading almost ridicules those people who pretend to advise God and understand his ways. He asks them to use their human means of measuring the universe. It is impossible:
Who [among you] has cupped in his hand the waters of the sea, and marked off the heavens with a span?
Who has held in a measure the dust of the earth, weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
The obvious answer, of course, is “No one!” Then the prophet puts the key question: “Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or has instructed him as his counselor?” Faced with mystery, the prophet took his question back before the moment of creation. In other words God must have an answer, so sublime that no one of us can comprehend it. Each moment of our lives has a definite place within God’s creation. The moments of darkness and woe are as important as the cycle of day and night, night and day, for good ecological balance.
This cycle ought to be present in all of our community enterprises and neighbourhood meetings. We ought to manifest both strength and weakness, strong decisions and humble dependence. With this combination, we will complement one another and sustain one another; we will arrive at the wisest decision available at the time. And in our reaction toward others, we will reveal ourselves as a people, already in possession of salvation by our strengths and talents, much in need of salvation by our faults and weaknesses. We will be instructors of others and will be instructed by these same persons. Then the earth will open and salvation bud out!
Let the clouds rain down the Just One and the earth bring out a saviour. You, Lord Jesus, are as immediately present as rain and flowers, or you vanish like a bird across the sky. In the wonder of what is closest to me, enable me to live with the mystery of yourself far beyond me.