JOHN THE BAPTIST SUFFERS IN HIS WITNESSING
(Is.35:1-6,10, Ps.146:6-10, Jam.5:7-10 & Matt. 11:2-11)
Last Sunday we heard from the prophet Isaiah how the expected Messiah would reconcile the contradictions and differences that separate people and to bring peace and harmony when he comes. While in the gospel John the Baptist cries in the wilderness calling the people to prepare the Lord’s way by a change of heart.
In today’s first reading Isaiah goes further to encourage the people as well as to reiterate the total liberation and restoration of the people by the expected Messiah. Isaiah says that when the Messiah comes to save his people he would open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, the lame would leap, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy and he would exert vengeance and liberation of captives, (Isaiah 35:5).
However, in the today’s Gospel passage, John the Baptist ‘the Voice’ that cries in the wilderness, now remains in the prison suffering because of his witness to the expected Messiah, even when the Messiah is already on the scene.
Meanwhile, as John was still in prison he heard the reports about Jesus the Messiah performing miracles and signs and speaking to the people about the coming of God’s kingdom, and perhaps, John had expected that Jesus would come to free him from the prison, since it is for his course that John finds himself in prison.
However, when that was not forth happening, John, therefore, sends his disciples to Jesus with the message, ‘are you the one who is to come or shall we wait for another?’ In his reply Jesus tells the messengers to inform John what they have heard and seen, the blind sees, the deaf hears, the lame walks, etc. And when they had gone Jesus remarks about John saying, ‘Among all born of any woman non is greater than John’. Certainly, the ‘silence’ of God is not abandonment.
What actually led to John’s imprisonment, one may ask? Because John condemns King Herod’s adulterous act of taking his brother -Philip’s wife as his own wife while his brother was still alive.
Nowadays, we are living in a society where people fear and avoid giving a caring-confrontation to their neighbours even when it is glaringly obvious that what their friends and colleagues are doing are wrong and grievous. They rather maintain their silence for the fear of what may result from the caring-confrontation. And this has left all of us in a vicious moral mess in our families and the wider society. People keep quiet while evil thrive around them probably because they don’t want to lose their good name and their relationship. Or still because they don’t want to suffer any punishment or lose whatever favours or privileges they had been enjoying.
But for the person of John the Baptist, he tells us today that, nothing can come in between him and his love and witness to the Messiah. Hence, he did not fear any threat or any lose confronting Herod with the painful truth regarding his inordinate relationship with Herodias his brother’s wife. He was ready to suffer and die for the truth and goodness sake.
Evils and atrocities are on the increase in our societies today simply because those who should talk, challenge, confront or even advise on the positive are not only keeping quiet but they even join the bandwagon. And so we keep moving in a vicious circle. It was Martin Luther King Jnr. who says, that ‘At the end of the day, we will not only remember the words of our enemies but more painfully the silence of our friends.
May God renew in us today the spirit of John the Baptist, (the greatest of all born of any woman), so that we all would stand up in our families and in the society to redeem it by challenging in a lovingly and pro-active ways the negative agents that are eating deep into the moral fabrics our families and society.
Again, may our today’s Eucharistic celebration strengthen us, all the more, to face with greater zeal the challenges and difficulties on our way of standing in sincerity for Jesus in our world today and may all who suffer in different ways because of their commitment to God in their Christian faith be filled with greater fortitude and lovely boldness like John the Baptist.
Give God the first place in your life and allow his principles to determine your decisions and life choices.
Reflection by Damian Ikemefuna Ozokwere cssp