2nd Sunday of Advent – St. John the Baptist Sends His Disciples to Christ

Second Sunday of Advent

Gospel – Matt. xi. 2-10.- At that time: When John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate, to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them: And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send my Angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

 

St. John the Baptist Sends His Disciples to Christ

 sending disciples

John the Baptist had been in prison some time; it was not for crime, but for the zeal he showed for the glory of God. Although you have heard the story many times, let us go over it again.

The impious Herod led a most scandalous life; everybody knew it, still no one dared reprove him for fear of incurring the hatred of this cruel man. But John the Baptist, to whom the glory of God was everything, did not hesitate to say to Herod, “There is a greater king than you, one whom you ought to respect, but whom you despise; it is not lawful to lead such a scandalous life: it is not right.” John saw that this boldness drew upon him the anger of the king, and that in the end it would cost him his life; still he did not cease to say, “It is not right.” Herod, to get rid of these reproofs, and instigated by the wicked Herodias, had John shut up in an obscure prison.

See then, my young people, the ardent zeal of John the Baptist for the honor and glory of God; the courage he possessed to make a firm stand against vice. If you had but a little of the courage of this sainted man, how much evil could you hinder! When you are with that careless companion, who at play or at his work will break out into blasphemous words, have the courage to say to him, “It is not proper to talk like that, it is not lawful to curse; it is not right. If in church a young man stands beside you who instead of hearing Mass talks and laughs, can you not say to him, “This is the house of God, the house of prayer, it is a holy place and this light conduct is unseemly here”? If you see that he does not improve in his conduct, what should you do? why, tell his parents, consult with them as to the best means of leading him to a better life. You remember it is related that Joseph, having seen his brothers commit a most wicked act, told his father Jacob of it. If all young people would act that way, how many scandals would be avoided. How much good would be effected, even by a child who, when it hears the father’s blasphemous tongue, would with a saddened countenance, but mildly and respectfully, say, “Father, it is not right for you to get into such a rage about so slight a matter.”

Should the child see that the father troubles himself very little about the observance of Sunday, never approaches the sacraments not even at Easter; in short cares very little for the duties of religion, how much good might the child do by a quiet and determined remonstrance, saying, “Father, it is not right to live in this manner, oblivious of God and your soul.” Should the child see meat on the table on days in which its use is forbidden, what a correction would it be if he said, “I do not eat meat on these days, because I respect the laws of the Church that forbid it. Alas, father and mother, what a dreadful thing you are doing! what scandal you are giving! can there be any blessing from almighty God on a family in which such things are done?”

John was in prison, as is stated in the Gospel, and there he heard of the works of Christ; he was struck with astonishment at the great fame which Our Lord had acquired by His striking miracles. John sent two of his disciples to Our Lord to ask, “Art Thou He that art to come or look we for another?” John the Baptist knew very well that Christ was the Messias, but he wished to introduce his disciples to Our Lord that they might become His followers. While they were on this embassy they saw a great number of miracles and Our Lord took occasion to answer the questions of John: “Go,” He said to them, “and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them: and blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me.” Such, then, are the miracles which Our Lord did for the human body; but still greater are those He works on the soul. How many sinners are spiritually blind, and He gives light to their intellects that they may understand the danger they are in! How many are spiritually lame; they do not walk in the path of virtue which is to lead them to heaven, but He cures them so that they run in the road of salvation and of life! How many sinners are spiritual lepers, covered from head to foot with loathsome ulcers of sin; He cleanses them; they be come as white as snow. How many are dead to His grace; He raises them from this death and gives them true life.

Many such miracles He has wrought on you and many such He is now working. Do you remember when you fell into mortal sin? You were blind, lame, leprous: you were dead to God, but God gave you sight and hearing when He infused into you the grace of desiring to make a good confession: “When we were in sin He revived us in Christ.”

O, that you could recognize as you should the benefits which God has bestowed on you in calling you back to the life of grace! These are greater miracles than to give light to the eyes of the body or to make the deaf hear. St. Gregory affirms that it was a greater miracle to have converted St. Paul than to raise Lazarus to life. Thank God for those favors you have received, and be grateful for them. Let me suggest another reflection which is very important. Our Redeemer manifested Himself as the true Messias by His good works; and should not also the Christian, who ought to be an imitator of Jesus, show that he is a follower of Our Lord by his works, and the sanctity of his life? But how many Christians are there who, instead of priding themselves on the friendship of Christ, become followers of the devil, are ashamed to imitate Christ and blaspheme His holy name! They are enemies of the cross of Christ. St. Augustine says, “Many are called Christians but they are not found to be connected with Christian works; they are called by a name which does not belong to them.” These are Christians in name only. The true Christian is one who does good works and leads a pure life. St. Bernard says that Christians are called after Christ, and since they have inherited the name, they must also possess the sanctity.

You, O Catholic youth, show yourselves true followers of Christ by your virtuous lives. The first Christians did this; they boldly confessed Christ before the persecuting tyrants, in face of the most cruel torments.

The following example will Serve to illustrate the courage of the early Christians. There was a beautiful but delicate young girl, Blandina by name, who was a slave. Her mistress, who was also a Christian and died a martyr’s death, thought that Blandina would be frightened, and would not have the strength to profess herself a Christian; but the slave showed heroic courage and stood firm in her faith, though she tired out her executioners who tortured her cruelly day and night. All were astonished that such a delicate creature should live through torments that were enough to cause death in ordinary circumstances. “I am a Christian,” Blandina said, “Christians abhor doing evil.”

She went to her death with joy, as if going to a banquet; she was scourged, placed on a fiery chair, and then, inclosed in a net, she was set before an infuriated bull which tossed her in the air. But the virgin martyr hardly felt the torments, for her mind was in heaven. At last she was beheaded, and pagans confessed that they had never witnessed such firmness, such indomitable patience. In this way the martyrs of the first ages of Christianity showed their love for Christ.

But let us return to our Gospel. The disciples of John the Baptist had g6ne away, and Our Lord turning to the multitude said, “When you went out into the desert to meet John the Baptist, what did you expect to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”

To how many young people can these words be applied? Many are slender reeds, which are shaken by the least breath of wind. The devil places before them some temptation, and at once they yield to his suggestion. A bad companion comes along and one is ready to join him in committing any sin. Now you see him weeping at the feet of his confessor for this sin, but tomorrow he is at his old habits again. Today you see him praying devoutly to Mary or the saints, tomorrow you find him again pursuing unlawful pleasures. Sometimes you see him with a good book in his hand, but often he greedily devours bad ones. At one time he resolves to give up bad company, but soon you will find him with them again. Yes, they are slender reeds! The least difficulty in the service of God, and they forget their good resolutions.

Be ye therefore not slender reeds, but sturdy oaks that bend not to every wind that blows. Imitate the firmness of St. John the Baptist. Say with Job: “Thine, O Lord, I have resolved to be and Thine I shall remain.”  Take me, O Lord, from this world, rather than allow me to prove unfaithful to Thee. “What went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea I tell you and more than a prophet. Behold I send My angel before thy face who shall prepare thy way.” What a beautiful encomium did John the Baptist receive from Our Lord! He calls him a prophet, and more than a prophet, an angel, a messenger of God. And truly St. John was an angel; a messenger of God; an angel not in form but indeed, an angel, though a human being, on this earth; an angel, because he never lost the innocence which was granted him by special favor from his mother’s womb; an angel, by his constant virginity and spotless purity.

O young man or young woman who have preserved your purity, you also are an angel. I rejoice with you. I beg of you, with all my heart, to remain always pure and innocent before God, and then with John the Baptist and the angels you will forever enjoy the vision of your Creator in heaven.

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