Post | March 2023 | Lent 2023 | 3 min read

Locusts and Wild Honey Part 3: DISAPPOINTMENT John 1:20

Written by Fra' Georg Lengerke

Dear Friends,

During Lent 2021, we offered a spiritual journey through Lent in Germany for members of the Order, their youth and its Relief Service. It was entitled "Locusts and Wild Honey" (Mt 3:4) - Fasting with John the Baptist. Through Emilie Verbeken, these weekly impulses also found their way to Belgium. Thus the idea was born to offer and publish the Lenten meditations on John the Baptist also for interested people in other countries. I thank Emelie Verbeken and Florentine Haeusgen warmly for the idea and its realization - especially for the translation from German into French and English. It would be nice if in this way our patron could help us to have a fruitful time of conversion.

To all of you a blessed Lent and renewal of soul and body,

Fra' Georg Lengerke

At first sight, John the Baptist is a disappointment. " I am not the Messiah!” is the first word the Baptist says in John's Gospel.

John appears in an atmosphere charged with expectation, in which the people of Israel are waiting for the Messiah: " The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah", the evangelist Luke tells us (3:15).

What kind of expectations did Jesus later ask the crowd: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” A smooth speaker like a reed, bending - depending on the wind - to every direction and pleasing everyone? Or a smart and elegant politician who holds it with power as found in the courts of that time and ours? (Mt 11:7-8) Or a lamp whose light is enjoyed for a while and then one goes on unenlightened? (cf. Jn 5:35)

John is different. He is a disappointment because he is not the expected one, and the disappointer because he exposes what we have put in the place of the expected, the one he announces to us. He is the man at the threshold - the "greatest of all those born of a woman", Jesus calls him, and yet sees him still at the door to the threshold of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 11:11). John the Baptist is to become the man at the threshold for all who hear his voice and prepare to receive God as man in Jesus.

"I am not the Messiah!” – I once spent an entire day in retreat thinking about this word. Actually, this sentence is nothing special. Anyone would tell me: “Of course you are not the Messiah, what do you think?”

But deep down, often unconsciously, that's what I try to be again and again: my own saviour. Where I don't want to accept help. Where the insatiable need for self-optimisation makes me more and more unredeemed. There, where perfectionism makes me sad and finally everywhere where I need divine and human help and yet try unsuccessfully to save myself and pull myself out of the swamp by my own hair.

Yesterday, the prayer of the day said, " We are fallen into death and will die without you.” Such reference to a saviour does not take away our own responsibility. For that means that we are responsible for ourselves, but not alone before ourselves. Before our own or other human judgement, most would probably not stand a chance in the end.

The disappointment is to realise that I am not the Saviour, but another. To know this other and to let him be big in my life is an un-disappointing happiness and at the same time what brings us to our true greatness. For our true greatness consists in becoming co-redeemers of the Saviour as lovers.

The real pain of disappointment is not the revelation of my perception as a deception, but the underlying fact that I have deceived myself or been deceived by others. The more fixed my false expectation or perception was, the more thoroughly I must be disappointed time and time again if I am to know the truth.

Therefore, a piece of advice for Lent: don't get stuck on your disappointments. Learn from them. They only (and often painfully) clear our view of reality. And "God embraces us through reality" (Willi Lambert).

Fra' Georg Lengerke

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