Mt 11:2-11 In Times of Trouble
Lord, increase my faith for I long to see your face!
St. John reminds us today that sometimes when you do what is right, good and holy, you will get punched in the face.
Just a few days ago I was racing to get to the Highlands to celebrate Mass. I made a big mistake. I took the busiest highway in Dallas at the wrong time! I said a prayer and went for it: I went inside the HOV lane! I went for it. I made it through alive, and on time.
I love St. John the Baptist because he was a man of courage and strength. But even the strongest men, the holiest men, the bravest men go through times of doubt and struggle. “Are you the One?” was his question but not really the question. The question that was really in his heart was this: “Was it all worthwhile?” Did I live a worthy life? Did I do what I was supposed to do? Did l live more for others than for myself? St. John was not loved by the Lord because he was a dog - he never complained. He is loved because he took off his mask and showed his humanity.
St. John was afraid. We are afraid. The First Sunday of Advent is a time of observation. The Second Sunday of Advent is a time of preparation. This Sunday is the time to “get moving.” Start walking towards the star! If I want to increase my faith I must take a leap of faith. It is at this moment that someone becomes a superhero, superhuman, an evolved human being – a human being at his best: A Saint!
St John went out on a limb. We go out on a limb, but then we work our way back. That’s the problem. We don’t know how to manage getting crushed, beaten and ripped apart. Isaiah, the prophet, reminds us; “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return” (Is 35:10). St. James tells us, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, take as an example of hardship and patience the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (Jas 5:10). We have all been called to do great things, but we have forgotten part of the formula that includes great hardship and difficulty. A local Baptist Church has a sign outside its doors that proclaims, "Christ paid the price in full. No change required." So when Jesus said, "Pick up your cross and follow me. What did he mean? Or, "If they hated me, they will hate you." The devil is the first that would love for us to sit down and do no work.
This year I received on the parish Emergency line a phone call from a desperate man seeking a priest to anoint his uncle who was severely burned in a house fire. I called him back and let him know I had done the anointing. He was very grateful. I was amazed to find out that he had called from California. He had searched for Catholic Churches and took a shot at ours. His relatives never even thought about calling a priest. He was concerned about his uncle’s soul, not his body. He went for it and his faith saved his uncle’s soul.
I remember early on in my priesthood visiting an elderly man at the request of his family and asking him if he wanted the anointing of the sick. He said, “No.” I asked him, “Why? What’s your problem?” He told me, “I can’t move and I want to die.” I asked him if he could move his hands or arms. He said no. I then proceeded to anoint him. I was much more ignorant at that time than I am now. But although he was upset (I told him he could sue me in heaven!) He later was relieved and died a short time later.
This Sunday the Lord is asking us to take a leap of faith; to start moving; to go after the star and see why it is there. I will tell you what will happen: your life will never be the same again. Just like all those who have encountered the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, strength and will: they found peace in turmoil.