It is easy for me to fall into a habit of complaining, or of waiting impatiently, and to somehow imagine that today’s sufferings, my sufferings, are the greatest of all sufferings.
Perhaps they are, although I don’t see any of us yet who are, like John, imprisoned for speaking up for marriage. Even when that day comes again, I’m willing to bet there’s someone who’s had it worse.
It’s not about comparative badness, though, where the best I can say is that at least it’s not the worst it’s ever been.
This third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminds me that I ame to wait joyfully.
Isaiah and the psalmist promise that the coming messiah will bring to each the thing they need and desire most, and Jesus says “Look! I’m doing it now!”
Am I blind? I am promised sight.
Am I deaf? I am promised hearing.
Am I lame? I will leap.
Am I mute? I will sing.
Am I oppressed? Justice.
Bowed down? Uplifted.
A stranger alone? Protection.
Unable to provide for myself? Sustenance.
A prisoner? Freedom.
Poor? Good news.
Whatever it is we need and desire most, that’s what the coming of the savior brings. It’s better than we dream, and better even than the promise; nobody ever promised lepers would be cleansed or the dead raised, but they were.
It’s hard to wait.
It’s harder to wait patiently and without complaint.
It’s even harder to wait with joy.
Thankfully, our waiting is easier because the promised gifts are already ours, in various forms, and to varying degrees.
Some are spiritually present, such as the food for our hungry soul we receive the Eucharist.
Some are intellectually present, such as having our blindness lifted so that we see and understand things in new ways.
Some are emotionally present, such as being cured of our brokenness, addictions, or depression so that we can leap and dance and sing again.
We don’t have them all in fullness yet, but we have more than a taste.
Scholars have argued from almost the moment Christian scholars existed about why John sends his disciples to ask if he’s the one who is to come.
Perhaps he was hoping to cash in on that promise of freedom for the prisoner.
Perhaps he was perplexed that the promises were not all fulfilled in the way he expected.
Perhaps he needed some consolation as he went through the darkness of being imprisoned for speaking out to say marriage is what marriage always was.
Perhaps John wanted his disciples to see and believe what he saw and believed, so they could hope in the one in whom he placed his hope. I think I lean towards this last option, along with Saints Jerome, Hilary and Ambrose.
Whatever his intentions, John sent his disciples to see Jesus, and they came away believing.
Like John, I am called to help others see Jesus so they can come away believing.
We receive these gifts, and they should help us to wait joyfully, but we are called not only to receive them, but, as the body of Christ, to distribute them.
We are called to help others know the blessing of receiving and recognizing these gifts already present as we wait with joyful patience for the day we’ll receive them all in fullest measure.
This Advent, I want to be more sensitive to the needs of those around me, and be a “little Christ” by showing kindness in meeting those needs.