Time for Planting
by Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
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."
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
It was a startling question that John the Baptist wanted his followers to ask Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come or should we wait for another?" This question is so dramatic that some commentators say that John had his followers pose this question to Jesus for their benefit not for John's. But John's question might indeed have been his own.
He expected the Messiah to be a great commander and liberator, throwing off the yoke of Roman rule, punishing sinners, cleansing the world of hypocrisy and sin. We heard his words in last Sunday's Gospel: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Also he said, "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" Now, John doesn't hear the sounds of battle. He only hears the echo of dripping water in his prison cell.
John's question may well be our own. Our hymns in church speak of the transforming power of the Messiah, of peace on earth and good will toward all. Yet, the world around us looks very different from the world pictured in our hymnals.
Jesus' reply is to tell John what they have seen. He is enabling the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear. These are the remote beginnings of the age of the Messiah. Jesus came not to impose a new world order from above but to transform hearts and minds to love of God and neighbor and grow the new creation from within. That takes time.
If we directed our resources to restoring the planet, cleaning the air, purifying the waters, taking care of what Pope Francis calls "our common home" then, as Isaiah says, the grasslands would bloom, Lebanon would see natural splendor, the desert would indeed come alive.
If we directed our resources to finding cures for diseases, then indeed, as Isaiah says, the blind, the lame and the deaf would see ad walk and hear once again.
If we directed our resources to helping people in need to develop self-respect, to recover dignity by being included as participants in society, then, as Isaiah says, feeble hands, weak knees and frightened hearts would be made strong.
Are we planting the seeds of this new world in the minds and hearts of the next generation or are we sowing the seeds of exclusion, greed, manipulation of others, of ignoring the poor or of looking out only for ourselves?
The kingdom of God will not drop into our world like a meteor from outer space. It will grow here on earth. Do we have the patience to do the planting and wait for the growth as St. James advises in today's second reading?
The question for us is what kind of seeds are we planting in our families, communities and schools? This third Sunday of Advent is called "Gaudete Sunday" or the Sunday to rejoice. We rejoice because Advent is half over. But it is also a Sunday to rejoice that we are blessed with the intelligence, technology and resources to change our world over time. We don't have to dream about a better world. We can start to make it happen by the seeds we are planting in young people's lives.
We want the harvest. We sing about it. We pray for it. We dream about it. But are we doing anything to bring it about? Are we like the architect who has a blueprint for a magnificent building on his wall for years and never does anything about it? The kingdom of God is always waiting and ready to be born.
The Catholic Charities Christmas collection this Sunday is a great outreach by the entire Catholic community. But the family table, the classroom, the neighborhood are also places where we can plant the seeds of a different future.
What seeds are we planting right now?
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