Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 12 December 2010

 When entering a country you first have to clear passport control, then pick up your luggage and walk through customs.  On the other side, as you emerge, there is a sea of people waiting for their loved ones.  They are straining to scrutinize every passenger who comes out.  Sometimes their faces light up as they recognize the person they are waiting for.  It is a great mass of yearning, expectant people, wanting to see the one for whom they await.  It tells us that often waiting expectantly is sometimes part of love.

This was the position of John the Baptist and his followers.  They had been waiting and longing for the Christ to arrive.  They had been reading the signs of the times, wondering if the moment was with them when the Messiah would be revealed.  But suddenly John was arrested, because the authorities did not like his preaching, with its criticism of injustice and oppression.  He knows that time is running out for him.  Will the new age of the Messiah come soon, or not?   In the gospel (Matthew 11.2-11) today John the Baptist sits in his prison cell and wonders, did he get it all wrong?  Had he given his life for nothing?  It is a very human moment.  The reply that Jesus gives quotes the words we hear first in Isaiah 35.5-6, words that were taken by the Jewish people to apply to the coming Messiah.  By quoting these words Jesus is saying, very clearly, Yes, but without allowing the eavesdropping prison guards to carry tales to the authorities.

Now it is our turn.  We are the people who, each Advent, look at the world around us and wonder where Christ is to be found.  Sometimes we wonder if the world is any different.  That is to say, we wonder if Christ’s life, death and resurrection have had the impact that they should have had.  We might ask, in all honesty, has the world been changed?  It might seem as if his coming has left the world much as it was before.

If you are ever tempted to think like this, then it is time to remember what Jesus said to the followers of John the Baptist.  He reminded them that he had brought healing, not only of sick and palsied bodies, but healing too of broken hearts, for when he healed the lepers he restored these lonely souls to the heart of the community.  He spoke in words of wisdom and encouragement.  He preached love, forgiveness and reconciliation.  He brought hope to the poor, not least the wonderful news that God had no favourites but regarded all people with equal love, rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Greek.

If you look with the eyes of faith you will see that in every generation Jesus Christ has called forth men and women to preach, to teach, to heal, to bring good news to the poor.  Imagine the world without Christian schools and hospitals, missions and dispensaries.  More than that, Jesus has called people together in every city and country to break bread together and to read his word, and to discover that he is alive in their midst.  Christ touches their lives and our lives, and gives hope.  Of course, the sceptics will look and will see nothing.  But then as we hear today from the Letter of James, ‘You too have to be patient;  do not lost heart.’

 Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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