SIGNS AMIDST DARKNESS
Chapter 3 of Under the Influence of Jesus focuses on the signs of his power through his actions. Paprocki walks us through various ways in which Jesus provided obvious signs that he is the Messiah: power over nature, power to heal, power to provide sustenance, and so on (pp. 31 - 37). I have often wondered why the people of Jesus' time ever doubted his Messiahship given the wonders that he worked. And the readings of Gaudete Sunday reminded me that even John the Baptist doubted Jesus' Messiahship, not to mention those who weren't of such great faith.
We find John the Baptist unjustly imprisoned for speaking the truth about Herod's wrongful "marriage" to his brother's wife, Herodias. In this bleak situation John suffers catastrophic doubt as he begins to wonder if the person who he has invested in for truth and goodness is in fact the Messiah. Is he mistaken? Is he the fool? Have those things which he has been announcing about the coming of the Kingdom of God - justice for the poor and forsaken, freedom for the prisoner, peace for the afflicted - been just a farce all along when he attributed them to Jesus? If Jesus is the Messiah why aren't those things John has been foretelling coming to reality? Why is there greater injustice, so that even John himself is imprisoned for truth? So great is John's doubt in this period of darkness that he sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. This is John's last cry for help as his faith begins to unravel.
Jesus' answer to John's disciples is: "Tell him what you see". Indeed, while the world may remain bleak and sin still pervades, grace is doing its work: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and those who are judged least by the world are first in the Kingdom of Heaven. Until a new heaven and a new earth is established, we will not be free of suffering, a deathly result of original sin. Yet, while we suffer like John - Jesus didn't save John from his cross: beheading - we are also affirmed that God's grace will continue to work miraculously, subtly, and surprising on many (cf. miracles of Fatima and Lourdes and many others). These are the signs amidst the darkness of a world tainted by original sin. They are to give us hope in an otherwise dark period of waiting. Gaudete, my friends!