John the Baptist offers one of my most favorite lines in reference to Christ from the New Testament: “He must increase, and I must decrease. (Jn 3:30)” I think it is an accurate summary of the Christian life. I’m thinking of him, as he made an appearance in last Sunday’s gospel. But I digress.
In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, we hear some of the final words of John the Baptist from his imprisonment before his death. He is the forerunner, the one who is making ready the path for the Savior who is to come. John sends word to Jesus, and asks forthrightly, “Are you the one….?”
Jesus does not answer with a simple yes to John’s question. He describes the powerful miracles he works as an affirmative and unmistakeable reply.
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Mt 11:2-6)
I’ve mentioned here before that this Advent I’m asking the Lord for what in particular he wants to show me each week. This week, it’s a way to evangelize… how to share the truth about Jesus: “Go and tell… what you hear and see…”
Yes, I am internalizing the words of this particular gospel for myself, asking what do these words of Jesus say to me? I am already convinced: I already believe he is The One. So what must I do? Give evidence of this faith.
How should I share this truth of the saving love of Jesus with another person? For starters, by sharing what I hear and see about Jesus.
How does Jesus work in my life? What do I hear and see?
I’m so very grateful that I heard the gospel proclaimed boldly when I was a teen. On a retreat in my parish, given by several Spirit-filled adults and teens, I gave my heart to Jesus. Decades later, my commitment to Jesus must continually be renewed, at Mass and through the sacraments, and through my daily prayer and actions. Part of that is giving witness to what I hear and see.
My adult life has been punctuated with many physical maladies, so its really no surprise that I pay attention to Jesus’ words of healing in this gospel. It’s also no surprise when I find there is more going on besides.
After a year of recurring chalazion cysts in my eyes, one day in prayer I felt Jesus nudging me to find another eye doctor, to get a second opinion. It was the right move: I’ve recently been diagnosed with ocular rosacea. (I never heard of that before! I don’t have skin rosacea either!) Yet Jesus is helping me heal slowly from it, with medication and diet. Some days this is slowing down my work and my pace of life, but I’m getting by, and grateful for a solid diagnosis. Blindness in my life need not be related to physical sight, it can be spiritual too… I can be blind to the needs of others due to my own selfishness and pride, or blind to my own laziness at times. Jesus has been trying to cure me of that too, in his direct, yet gentle ways.
In one chapter my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, I wrote about a kind of lameness that I’ve experienced for many years. A congenital deformity — bi-lateral hip dyplasia — has led to one hip replacement in my 40s, and another one to come in the future. What a gift to finally be able to walk straight after my hip got repaired in 2008. Before that point, I often used a cane and limped. I thanked God for using medical science to bring me relief from that lameness and pain. Recently, there are more signs that the other hip, similarly afflicted, is deteriorating. There are days when the pain gets the best of me. Jesus is even using this somehow — especially when I remember to offer it up for the needs of others. He’s reminding me that lameness of spirit is a more deforming and detrimental condition than my hip. So he is calling me to daily disciplines that are designed to build up spiritual muscle in the meantime.
I’ve never met a leper, though I know the disease still exists — but I know what it is to have a disease nobody wants. My breast cancer diagnosis in my 30’s left me pretty scared and beat up. Yet here I am, still chugging with double digit years of survivorship. Jesus saw me through that painful time too. I write about some of that in my book too. Cancer is the club that nobody wants to join. Just this month my husband was diagnosed with melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer. Yet despite the shock I felt that morning when he got the call, we were both already on our way to Mass that morning — the very best place we could be. Jesus gave us strength that day. We are grateful that Bob has an early stage of the disease. It was caught very early and is treatable by surgery.
Some people might look at my life and not see a single miracle in any of this stuff I’ve shared. And you’d be right… there were no miraculous restorations to my former health, just ways of keeping me alive, and dealing with illness and disability… both physical and spiritual. Yet, the depth of my gratitude, my blessings, and my joys are innumerable. Jesus has seen me through. He guides my steps. He re-aligns my faltering ones. My life is on his timetable, not mine. I belong to him. He’s the One who is the source of all my good.
If I’m looking for miracle, I can tell you where I find one.
The real miracle is Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist at every Mass, or in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. No matter what shape you’re in, no matter the highs and lows in your own life… go to Him. Spend time with Him there.
Then tell me what you hear and see.
Then tell someone else.