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What are you looking for? - Wednesday Gospel Reflection

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Advent is, above all, a time of waiting. A time when we enter into the long history of salvation, taking the part of the people of Israel as they awaited the Messiah. But one question we should ask ourselves during this season is ‘what are we waiting for?’ In one sense this is obvious - we await the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ at Christmas. But asking ourselves what we are waiting for can help us enter more fully into the mystery of what we are soon to celebrate.

Today’s gospel reading is St Luke’s version of the gospel reading from Sunday’s Mass which was taken from the Gospel of Matthew. St John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask whether he is the Messiah, or whether they are to wait for another. Jesus’ response is not argumentative, apologetic or theological, he simply responds by showing that His ministry of teaching and healing fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 25:8; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). But the gospel reading ends with a slightly enigmatic statement, ‘And blessed is he who takes no offence at me’ (Luke 7:23). In the context of Luke’s narrative, this is hardly surprising, in chapter four Our Lord has already met with rejection in his own hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30), and this chapter ends with Jesus angering the pharisees for forgiving a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50). Moreover, given that His public ministry ends in official rejection and a brutal death, the promise of happiness to the man who doesn’t loose faith is not unsurprising.

There is clearly some confusion in this passage - the plain sense of the question asked by St John would seem to suggest that he is questioning the very nature of Jesus’ ministry, casting a doubt on whether he is, in fact, the Messiah. On the one hand this seems surprising given the role that the Baptist had at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and the deference that John showed to Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan, but on the other hand Our Lord’s ministry did confound expectations, even those of St John the Baptist.

What we await in these days is something which will ultimately confound all of our expectations, and no amount of preparation will enable us to fully grasp the mystery that the maker of all has become man. St Augustine draws a number of contrasts to highlight the mystery ‘Christ as God was born of his Father, as man of His Mother; of the immortality of His Father, of the virginity of His Mother; of His Father without a mother, of His Mother without a father; of His Father without time, of His Mother without seed; of His Father as the source of life, of his Mother as the end of death…’ (Sermon 194). By asking ourselves what we are waiting for we won’t fully grasp the mystery, for that is not possible in this life, but we will enter more deeply into it.

Br Albert Elias Robertson O.P.

Br Albert Elias was born in Surrey and went to university at the London School of Economics, where he read Social Anthropology before going to Oxford, where he read for an MPhil in Material Anthropology. After studies, he had a propaedeutic year in three Anglican parishes in north London. He became a Catholic in 2013 and worked for a short time in London living at St Patrick’s Soho before entering the noviciate in 2015. Br Albert helps to run the Thomistic Institute and so has an interest in promoting the theology of St Thomas as well as Patristics. In his spare time he likes to read novels [lots]. | albert.robertson@english.op.org


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