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15.12.2019 — Exchange between the Messenger and the Message

Posted under Reflections on December 14th, 2019 by

3rd Sunday of Advent, – 15th December 2019 — Gospel: Mt 11,2-11

Exchange between the Messenger and the Message

In this section John seeks to discern Jesus’ identity (11,2-6) and Jesus makes known John’s identity and mission (11,7-11). The exchange between the messenger and the message leads to figure out Jesus’ identity and mission.

Earlier John had proclaimed the coming of a stringent judge and a fiery judgment (3,1-12). Now John hears the messianic works of preaching and healing performed by Jesus, which does not match his preconceptions. So he poses this question, “Is Jesus the object and fulfillment of all Messianic prophecy?” His question echoes his previous statement: “One who is more powerful than I is coming after me” (3,11). Perhaps John has become less confident that Jesus is the Messiah due to his own imprisonment, the increasing opposition to Jesus, the delay of God’s judgment upon sin, and the oppressive religious and political leaders. John’s question gives Jesus an opportunity to confirm his own identity and to clarify the role of John as forerunner of the Messiah.

The high point in Jesus’ messianic mission is not the series of healings (Is 29,18-19; 35,5-6), not even the raising of the dead (Is 25,8), but rather the preaching of good news to the poor (Is 61,1-2). In these messianic acts the prophecies are being fulfilled and the time of salvation is at hand. With one more beatitude (11,6) Jesus gently appeals to John not to stumble and fall from faith. Because Jesus is a different type of Messiah, very different from the one John the Baptist expected. Blessed is he who does not “look for another” because in that case he is looking for the fulfillment of his own dreams rather than of God’s prophecies. This beatitude encourages believers not to focus on the increasing opposition which leads to doubt, but to realize the presence of salvation made known in their midst. 

After Jesus has answered John’s inquiry about who Jesus is, he turns now to the crowds and asks who John is. With six rapid-fire questions Jesus excludes the various possibilities one by one and leaves the inquirer with only one conclusion. John was neither a vacillating crowd pleaser nor an influential politician; but he was a sturdy prophet, who unwaveringly challenged the corrupt authority. He was a prophet allowed to see the age of fulfillment (13,17); indeed, he became part of the messianic age he prophesied. He was the messenger of the covenant (Mal 3,1), the end-time messenger God sent before his Messiah as guide (Ex 23,20). Anyone who, by his discipleship commitment and his close tie to Jesus, experiences the kingdom that has come in a new way in Jesus, has a privilege in salvation history even beyond John the Baptist. One’s status in the kingdom is not one’s achievement, but a free gift from God, who assigns places as he wills (20,23).

14.12.2019 — Understanding the Son of Man

Posted under Reflections on December 13th, 2019 by

2nd week of Advent, Saturday – 14th December 2019 — Gospel: Mt 17,9-13

Understanding the Son of Man

On mount Tabor, the chosen disciples have entered more deeply into the mystery of the final triumph of Jesus. Matthew alone specifically labels this apocalyptic experience as a “vision”. Nonetheless the disciples are not to reveal this apocalyptic secret until the turning of the ages take place, i.e., till the Son of Man is raised from the dead. The disciples, who have understood this mystical experience and were prompted by their encounter with Elijah, raised an objection based on the scribal teachings. How can Jesus be the Messiah and the bringer of the end-time when Elijah had not yet returned? Jesus’ answer confirms Elijah’s key role as preparer or restorer. In fact indirectly he pointed out that Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptist, but they did not recognize him. In reference to Elijah’s return (Mal 4,5-6) and his suffering (1 Kgs 19,2), the Matthean disciples understood the violent fate of John the Baptist (17,13). Once again Matthew emphasizes the role of understanding in believing. In understanding the suffering of John the Baptist, the disciples were able to believe into the mystery of the suffering of the Son of Man. Thus, the transfiguration experience enabled the disciples to take one more step to understanding (13,51; 16,12) Jesus’ eschatological role.

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