At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Sometimes we can doubt, especially when we are in a lot of pain.
John was suffering. Imprisoned in a dark cell, he asked two of his closest friends to ask the Lord if he was indeed “the one who is to come.” Darkness, pain, suffering and turmoil can do that to us. It can make us doubt a lot of things we once took for granted.
Rain. No one really enjoys it. Except for Gene Kelly, no one really “sings in the rain”. Today’s responsorial psalm is perfect in light of today’s weather: “Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.” Rain makes everything appear cloudy, dreary, muddy and sloppy. But plants and animals need it in order to survive, to blossom and to grow. We need it too and for the same reason. The experts tell us that we need a lot of it. A simple rain shower won’t do it. We need it to pour. You can complain. You can say, “Well, couldn’t it happen another way. Couldn’t nature have made it that instead of raining down to the surface it rained up to the surface?" Of course things could be different. But then, the world would be a totally different place!
The Cross. No one really enjoys it. Except for St. John of the Cross, no one really “embraces their Cross.” No one likes it. But we all need it. We all need it in order to mature and to grow. It seems to be a law of nature; that if you want to grow up, you need to face up to some pain and suffering in your life. If you want to be a better man, you need to carry a heavier cross. You could complain and say, “Why does it have to be this way? Why does pain and suffering have to be the means to a bright and glorious end? But we know, from experience, that complaining gets us nowhere.
John the Baptist was experiencing one of the worst moments of his life. He was having second thoughts while in prison. He doubted himself and the Lord. After all, his life was so much easier before he had met the Lord. Life had been so much better while in the desert, wearing sackcloth and eating locusts, than now; in prison, in solitary confinement, in filth and dampness that filled him with the fear of being forgotten and abandoned. Physical loneliness can make us question everything. Mental loneliness can make life unbearable. That’s why John needed to know. That’s why he needed to ask, “Is my suffering worthwhile? Are you the one?”
Raise your voice and tell the Good News: Behold, the Lord God comes with power! Atheists are weak. They crumble at the slightest amount of tolerance. They fall apart at the slightest possibility of acceptance. They are intolerant and expect everyone to fall in line with them. But in reality, they whimper at everything because they laugh at nothing! I love the Saints, especially St. John of the Cross. He endured horrible hardship at the hands of his own brothers; that is, those who belonged to his religious congregation! They placed him in jail! They played mind games with him. And he endured it all by writing a poem, a love story: “The Dark Night of the Soul”.
A while back, after celebrating Mass at a Catholic school, a young student came up to me and said, “I was very offended by your homily. Being an atheist I would prefer that you no longer speak about atheists again.” I kid you not! I was shocked! I reminded this young student that I had said nothing against atheists but rather against the failure of atheistic philosophy. Then I paused and said, “Are you censoring me? I thought we lived in a country where ideas may be freely expressed?” The student had nothing to say. Finally, I said, “But if I offended you I want you to know that you are more important to me than my homily.” The student looked shocked and kindly said, “Thank you.”
This Christmas, the atheists are seeking court orders to put up their weak minded slogans next to our physically weak child Jesus. They think their slogans will help Americans come to know the truth. If anything, I am sure that it will help Americans come to know the truth about them and the Truth, Way and Life of Jesus Christ.
When it rains, it pours! It cannot be avoided. When life begins, pain and suffering begin as well. It cannot be avoided. Not even our Lord wished to avoid it, for it is a most excellent way to rise and define who you are and to show how much you can love.