Saint Matthew 11. 2-10
Gaudete: 15 December Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
“Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!” The Third Sunday of Adventide is named Gaudete Sunday because the Introit has Philippians 4.4 as its antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice!”
How fitting that one of the most recognized, used, and beloved of all icons (even amongst us Evangelical-Catholics of the West) is the triptych of Christ enthroned on a center panel, flanked on the right by the Blessed Virgin and on the left by Saint John Baptizer.
John is the last of the Old Testament Prophets. Saint Mary is the type of the New Testament Church. Both are on the Lord’s flanks looking at and toward Salvation in the flesh—the Advent of release and Peace. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” booms John. “Whatever He saith unto you, do it” intones Our Mother. For as the Archangel said, so it is: “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee.” The greatest of women and the greatest of men are both pointing to and bowing to the God/Man who has loosed them from prison and regarded the low estate of a handmaiden. Jesus made the one strong to withstand the shaking of the winds of trials and physical depredations. The Lord fed the Baptizer with faith by Grace that this man accepted locusts and wild honey as suitable sustenance—for He had Christ to eat as His true Bread of Life. The Lord so clothed him with absolving love, and peace of conscience, that he was content with camel hair garments and a leather girdle. Jesus chose John and made him not just the last of the Prophets but the Elias to come…the very “messenger before Thy face.”
Jesus, God of God, made the other His mother, God’s Mother; crowning her with the eternal title “Blessed Virgin” for she is as Gabriel gospels “blessed…among women.” Indeed, Saint Mary herself filled with the Holy Ghost sings “Megalunei” as Saint Luke records…”Magnificat” as Saint Jerome translates, and, as you sang Thursday past “My soul doth magnify the Lord” in the Church’s greatest canticle of praise.
A pregnant teen-aged mother not sure whether her heretofore fiancé is going to marry her or “put her away” has the presence of Christ sustain and bring hope and perseverance. She who was gossiped against and ridiculed in her home-town as mother of an illegitimate child, had the reality of the Lord’s imminence and love to give her comfort and balm. And, the other one rotting away in a vermin infested cesspool of a prison, knowing that Herod’s blade is fast approaching, had the works of Christ confirming the revelations of God the Holy Spirit. These works of the Savior brought John courage and inner joy even in his upcoming martyrdom.
So, all the questions about whether John lost faith while in prison; did he doubt; was this an existential moment of despair or fatalistic resignation, are wrong at best and diabolic at worst. John, like our Blessed Mother Mary, was a sinful human in thought, word, and deed. Of course John’s faith was not perfect. Like you, his prayer life was not perfect nor was His Scripture study all that God demands in keeping the First Table. But to pull down the Baptizer to some lower level in a misguided and twisted egalitarian/American scrum of democratization is un-Christian. There are all the Saints to be sure, the “Communion of Saints.” And then, there are the titans of the faith, the Martyrs of the Merciful One, Saint Stephen, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Polycarp, and others. There are the indispensible pillars of reflected light: the Evangelists, Saint Moses, Elias, and of course Saint Mary herself. And there is John as Christ describes him in Matthew 11: “verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” [Mt. 11.11a]
No, John knew Who Jesus was…Scripture is irrefutable on this.
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples.” Full stop! John had seen Jesus at the Jordan. John had seen the descent of the Paraclete. John had heard the voice of the Father. These three auditory and visual manifestations had confirmed all that the Spirit had already revealed to John. John had both read the Old Testament prophecies but also had special revelation. But then, John went his way and the Christ went his way. John was soon arrested and placed deep into darkness. John did not witness the healing miracles that the Lord had worked thus far.
When John, as the Evangelist Matthew records for us, finally heard of Jesus’ great signs, he was overjoyed in this confirmation. He knew it would be what his own “hangers-on,” his own last few followers, needed to see and to hear in person. So, John sends the final two of his students to become disciples of the only true Teacher of Truth: The Truth.
This Gospel text is not about John and not about Mary and not about the two disciples. This event is about the Word that is confirmed by THE WORD. Scripture, the Old Testament, is confirmed in the Flesh and Blood and Voice of the Nazarene: “The bind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
You were blind in your damning sin. You were living in a darkness far blacker and filled with more despair than John’s prison cell. Jesus spit and made new restorative and regenerative clay, not of the earth, but of His Flesh and Blood, and placed it on your eyes to open you to His Light. You were lame. You were bent over and crippled not with polio or arthritis or some exotic palsy, but with an Old Adam curvature of self—causing you to grown twisted and malevolently in on your own foul heart. Jesus touched you with the hem of His garment, placed His own robe upon you and straightened you and lifted you up off your pallet; He dipped you in the New + Pool of Siloam and His waters energized your mended body and bones. You were leprous but Jesus washed off your lesions, pustules and scars with the salve of His precious cleansing Blood. You were deaf but the Lord’s fingers, His punctured palm-tips placed His Word of Peace and Forgiveness into your ears—and thus into your hearts. You were dead and filled with the venom of enmity and hatred towards God. But Christ resurrected you from the + Font wherein He buried you with Him into His death and raised you again in His Easter Resurrection. You live; you are forgiven; you are at Table with your Master, your Meal, and your merciful Messiah!
My fellow poor, my fellow prison mates, my fellow brothers and sisters of our Mother, Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus Ex Maria virgine, gaudete! Deus homo factus est!
John is freed from his prison given back his head—Christ the Head—and seated with the Virgin, the Sabaoth, the Saints, and shortly all of you.
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost