Locusts and Wild Honey Part 5: ALL OR NOTHING Mt 11,2-6
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
What if everything was a deception? That is the question asked, for example, by long unnoticed deceived spouses. Or people who find out that their mother's husband is not their father. People who say the ground has been pulled out from under them and they find themselves in free fall, not knowing when, where and how they will hit the ground.
This distress caught up with me once in the early phase of clarifying my priestly and religious vocation. I had come across St. Paul’s question, what if Jesus' resurrection had been a fraud and a lie. "Then," Paul writes to the Corinthians, "your faith is useless, and you are still in your sins; and even those who have fallen asleep in Christ are then lost." If we have nothing to hope for from Christ beyond death, Paul continues, then "we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Cor 15:17-19)
If Christ has not risen, then I will therefore have lived in vain as I have lived, and my life would have been built on a sham. All forsaken for Christ would have been lost and all confidence void.
A similar distress speaks of the question with which John the Baptist sends some of his disciples to Jesus from prison: " Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Mt 11:2-6; Lk 7:19) Especially as John has no time at all to wait. His life hangs by the thread of the whims of an unpredictable choleric (see next week). Have I prepared the way for the wrong man, lent my voice and given my life? Was it all in vain?
Earlier this week I heard a similar question from an elderly relative who is a deeply spiritual and faith-filled woman. She had accompanied a cousin and friend to her death, who herself had gone her last way with great humility, kindness and patience. And now this veteran friend of Jesus says: "I was always convinced that after death it somehow goes on. But now... When I imagine dying today, I feel all faint and silent and kind of cold." And she shrugs her shoulders while her voice fails....
Perhaps John was only asking the Lord for our sake. St. Jerome suggests that John the Baptist himself was quite sure of what he was saying. He had only given this question to the disciples for their own sake, so that they might convince themselves of the credibility and truth of God's work in Jesus.
So, the question is not simply a sign of little faith. It is allowed and sometimes even commanded: "Are you really the Christ? Or is another?” It must be asked so that it can be shown where we have trusted in false "Christs" and so that we can convince ourselves again and again - or allow ourselves to be convinced anew - of the work of Christ in Revelation, in the life of the Church and of Christ's witnesses, and in our own lives. Already from today on. And not only when we are backed into a corner.
Jesus' answer is short. And at the same time it is long. It is lifelong. Jesus does not simply say, "Yes, it is I!" He reminds the disciples of the Baptist to hear and see what happens where Jesus is, and what they are to tell John and all people about: " Blind see again and lame go; lepers are made clean and deaf hear; dead rise up and the gospel is proclaimed to the poor." Pious Jews knew these words: this is how the prophet Isaiah had promised that it would be when the Anointed One of God came.
The one longed for since the beginning of the world, the one promised by the prophets, has come in Jesus. And he is still coming. The mission of the Baptist has been fulfilled. The waiting has come to an end. You no longer need to wait. You can expect him always and serve him at the table of your life. Him and those he wants to love together with you.
Fra' Georg Lengerke.
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