Saturday, December 19, 2009
Advent 21 : John, At Last
Eventually John extends the invitation to repent to someone who knows that John is right, but cannot accept: it would cost Herod the tetrach far too much. Ultimately, that refusal to pay the price will cause John to lose his life (Matthew 14:3-12).
And in prison, John hears what Jesus is doing, and wonders: is this who we were to expect after all? (Matthew 11:1-19) Who Jesus was, and what he was doing, didn’t match even John’s expectations.
And Jesus’ response is to call John to repent, to change his mind: these things, impossible for man but possible through God, are exactly the ‘kairos’ moments – the opportunities to repent, to turn around and step into the present presence of God’s future – that show heaven is come near. One day, all the blind shall see, the lame walk, the unclean will be made clean, the deaf shall hear, the dead shall be raised, and the poor shall experience God’s goodness. And even now we get to share in the signs that point to that Day.
And Jesus said that John, who was about to lose his head, stood head-and-shoulders above all those born of women (John said that Jesus would surpass him, for he needed to become less and Jesus become more – John 3:30 – but at this point in the story, John is still greater, according to Jesus – Matthew 11:11). And yet, he continued, whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.
That is, the secret of greatness is becoming smaller and smaller, until you disappear. That at the vanishing-point of our ego, God’s power flows through us with least resistance. No-one had become smaller than John – but, because of John’s example, they would. John’s repentance had opened a breach between earth and heaven, through which heaven poured into earth like water through a breached dam – and those forceful enough to keep going against the flow of everyone else have experienced the present presence of God’s future bursting in, ever since...
[Today’s Antiphon is O Radix Jesse]