– Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications Limited
To the messengers sent by John the Baptist, Jesus was presented as the Messiah, listing the signs taken from texts of Isaiah (Is 35:5-6; 26:19; 61:1), the prophet of hope, who had predicted, “On that day no one would complain: I am sickly” (Is 33:24).
Through the messengers, Jesus invites the Baptist to take note of the new realities. The new world has come: those who have been walking in the dark and have lost the orientation of life, now are enlightened by the Gospel. Whoever was crippled and could not move can now can walk quickly. Whoever was deaf to the word of God, now listens and lets himself be guided by it. Whoever regarded himself miserable and hopeless has begun to listen to the good news: “There is salvation for you as well.” There is no fire here, no scary vengeance here.
The Messiah of God has nothing to do with the energetic and severe character that John had expected. Jesus’ way of doing had scandalized the precursor and continues to shock us even today. There are still some who ask the Lord to intervene to punish the wicked. There are still some who interpret misfortunes as God’s punishment to those who have done evil. But can God be angry or feel pleasure in seeing His children (even if bad) suffer?
Jesus ends his answer with a beatitude, the 10th, found in the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” A sweet invitation to the Baptist to review his convictions.
A good God contradicts all the beliefs that John had. Like us, the Baptist also imagined a mighty God. Finding himself weak, he expected sensational interventions. However, the events continued to unfold as if the Messiah had not come.
The Baptist is the figure of a true believer. He flounders in many perplexities, asks questions, but does not deny the Messiah because he does not match his criteria. He calls into question his own beliefs.
Jesus is not worried about who has trouble believing, who feels lost in front of the mystery and puzzles of existence, who says that s/he does not understand the thought and actions of God. He is worried about those who confuse one’s own beliefs with the truth of God, those who have ready answers to all questions, those who have always some dogma to impose, those who never allow themselves to be questioned.