When John’s disciples approach Jesus with their teacher’s question, Jesus doesn’t balk at it. In fact, it might be the only question Jesus answers in a straightforward manner in all four gospels. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” is, despite my attempts to soften it yesterday, a question of judgment. Even if there is hope behind John’s question, there is also a question of truth. “Are you, Jesus, really the Messiah?” is about as forthright a question as you can get, and Jesus doesn’t shy away. In fact, he responds the their question by giving them the criteria by which he wishes to be judged; which also happens to be the criteria by which his Body, the Church, and her members will also be judged.
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
Jesus asks to be judged based on his words and his actions. He wants the disciples of John to take back to him the lessons they have heard, specifically Jesus notes “the good news for the poor,” as well as his acts of mercy: the blind see; the lame walk; the lepers cleansed; the deaf hear; and the dead alive.” These are the criterion of the Kingdom of God, and as such, they serve as the basis of discipleship in our everyday lives.
Advent is a season in which judgment is at the forefront. It is a season that makes us uncomfortable because we don’t like being judged, but I think our fear of judgment is mostly based on the fact that we feel like we don’t know the rules by which we will be judged. Here, we get those rules laid out for us very clearly. As we prepare for the coming of Jesus as a child born in a stable and descending with power and might to judge the world the season of Advent is a perfect opportunity to take stock of our lives. Are we being faithful in sharing the Good News to the poor, that is, the good news of God’s economic reversal to the physically poor and the Good News of God’s saving grace to the spiritually poor as well?
Only then should we begin the process of answering the “what do you see” question. Are we reaching out in loving service to our neighbors? Are we challenging unjust systems? Are we bringing healing to the world? Or, as Jesus says to wrap things up, “are our words and actions creating a stumbling block for Jesus, or are we living lives worthy of the Gospel?”