Transcription of Homily
Translation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
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.
The saving words of the Gospel.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
At the beginning of every Gospel, in the Latin Mass, we always begin with in illo tempore, but actually today, it’s part of the Scripture. Matthew put those words there, to begin this particular passage, and in this passage, we see a couple of background concepts, one is waiting, and another is darkness. And this is multifaceted darkness, we have a darkness, a wintery darkness as the days get shorter, we have the darkness of a fallen world that awaits its savior. And we’ve got the darkness of John’s prison cell.
This in illo tempore, this at that time, that we heard at the beginning of the Gospel in Matthew begins precisely Chapter 11 Verse 2 with those words.
He’s underlining the difference between what’s called Kronos and Kairos. Right Kronos is this Greek sense of time that is cyclic, or linear, but goes nowhere. You know for the pagans, it was exactly divine revelation that reveals to us that time is not only linear, but also reaches a fruition; a fullness.
All the pagan religions, they’ve got either this eternal return, or a spiral, this repetition that you can’t escape from. Christ provides us an escape with the revelation of the truth of His kingdom, and that He is coming in the fullness of time.
And so Kairos is the precise moment, the opportune moment, the moment when God wants to do something, He kind of breaks into our time and space, in order to do something that only He can do. And that’s the difference between Kairos time and Kronos time; Kronos time, which just leads to death, and Kairos, which speaks of hope, and it shows precisely the works of God.
So, you know, John is in prison, and he’s lost everything except his disciples. And now He sent His disciples to Christ, to ask this all important question: Are you the one who is to come? Or do we wait for another? Notice he includes himself; Do we wait for another? So he’s humbly admitting that he’s also awaiting, just like his disciples awaiting this Messiah. And depending on our Lord’s answer, John will most likely lose his disciples to Christ, which obviously, his job is to point out the Messiah to point out the Lamb of God, which he does. And so, John now loses his disciples and Christ will take them to himself and make them His own disciples.
It says in Greek at that time when John heard in prison, the works, not of Christ, as it says here in the English translation, but the works of the Christ, of the anointed, of the Messiah. And so many have been anointed as priests, many have been anointed as kings, but there is only one who is the Messiah, the Anointed One.
And so this is the question.
And Christ, even though he tells us to answer yes or no to questions, He doesn’t say yes or no. Rather, He states facts. And He paraphrases something from Isaiah. Isaiah says, he’s referring to the Messianic time, when God will send the Messiah to redeem Israel; The signs will be: the blind shall see the lame shall walk, the lepers shall be cleansed, etc., everything in the future tense. When our Lord speaks about it, He speaks about it in the present tense; He’s saying it’s happening now. And then there’s an interesting stylistic element here at work that our Lord uses.
He uses these anaphylactic phrases and this the use of conjunctions … and… and… and… which you don’t get in English. We don’t find any ands here. But the way it would be in Greek is not the blind see the lame walk, but it would be blind without the article, blind, blindness, blind people, blind everything – all blindness – does see, and lame walk, not the lame, lame, so he’s incorporating everything that is touched by blindness, everything that’s touched by deafness, everything that’s touched by lameness, everything that’s that’s touched by death, is incorporated, is touched, is moved, is redeemed, is subject to the action of grace of our Lord.
And dead things do rise; He’s speaking the present. He’s giving supernatural life to souls that are dead in sin. And why does He say … and… and… using these, these connectors, these conjunctions, because it’s almost like an endless list, and that’s what our Lord is referring to, that this work is ongoing, it’s constant and incorporates everything.
In the poor, have the gospel preached to them. Obviously, this is not a social-economic class. The poor are those who understand that they are nothing, and our Lord is everything. He is their one treasure. And so we ought to count ourselves amongst them. And then He gives us a new beatitude. He gave us the Beatitudes that we find in the Sermon on the Mountain, Chapter 5, and now there’s a new one. In Chapter 5, the Beatitudes are always plural. Makarioi, right? Bless it are, but here, it’s singular. And why is that? Blessed? It is he that shall not be scandalized in me, because he’s talking about John. He’s talking about John in his prison, John, in his suffering, and this is the crux of the matter is across the cross, John has had this cross foisted upon him and he’s accepted it and our Lord is confirming him in that vocation.
Scandalon means stumbling block. Scandalon, then, is a problem. It’s something in the way, it trips us up. So bless it is he that shall not be scandalized in Me. In other words, the cross of Christ was a scandal for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles. But our Lord is saying, and we see this in hindsight of His passion, we finally see that John is already previously participating in the cross of Christ. That his suffering is not a scandal, that when he who was justified in the womb at the visitation, right, that’s why it says he lept. The verb is he danced, he danced in the womb. That was his baptism. So he’s in a state of grace. And this cross then is meritorious.
Everybody suffers not everybody suffers well. We all have crosses, we don’t always carry them well. And sometimes we resist them. And sometimes we’re resigned to them. But our Lord wants us to embrace them. He wants them not to be scandals, but means of sanctification. And so he’s talking about John. Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me because John, you are already participating in my passion.
So, notice too the phrasing that our Lord uses; go telling John, what you have heard and seen. This is the same words that our Lord will use at the very end of his gospel, when he sends the disciples out go, teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and Son, the Holy Ghost. In other words, Christ is appropriating John’s disciples to Himself and making them these evangelizers of John with the truth of the Gospel. And this truth then is going to involve not only all of this, the saving works of the Christ that we’ve heard, but also the cross and that’s why Advent is, believe it or not, not a time for holiday parties, but penance.
It’s a penance that looks for with joy to the coming of Christ, but it’s a time of penance, and it aught to be lived that way. And this is the spirit of this liturgical season and this is why Mother Church gives us this Gospel on the second Sunday of Advent.
In the name of the Father to the Son, the Holy Ghost.