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Then what did you go out to see?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. – Luke 7:26
To at least begin to understand today’s Gospel reading, one must go back to the beginning of the chapter from which it is taken. In the Seventh Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, we see Jesus at the height of his healing ministry, even raising a person from the dead. John the Baptist’s disciples then go to ask the Lord if he is “the one who is to come,” a probable reference, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference notes on its website, to the return of the fiery prophet of reform, Elijah (Mal 3:23). Jesus merely points to what can be objectively measured: the results of his healing ministry. Interestingly, he adds, “the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
Today, after the messengers return to John the Baptist, Jesus turns to the crowds that have begun to follow him, thanks to the miraculous healings he has performed. He tells them that Scripture has alluded to John, saying, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.”
Remember that John the Baptist has already said he is “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” He also said that he is unworthy to untie the sandal strap of “the one who is coming after me.” And, as Jesus approached his baptismal site in the Jordan River, he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Thus John is indeed, “more than a prophet,” as Jesus says in today’s Gospel. He is the Forerunner of Christ, preparing people to receive the Messiah.
What about us? Are we living up to our own baptism, which cleared the way for Christ to live within us by cleansing us of original sin? Are we continually keeping the “way of the Lord” clear and straight, by constant repentance and frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
The Church gives us special times of the year, such as Advent, to remind us that we always need to “prepare the way of the Lord.” Personally. Within our hearts and souls.
Unworthy servants that we are, o lord,
grieved by the guilt of our deeds,
we pray that you may gladden us
by the saving advent of your only Begotten son.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.