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3-Point Mass prep: What the Jews understood with John’s question


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Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik - published on 12/10/22

Malachi's prophecy refers to Yahweh - God. The announced Elijah is to prepare the way for God Himself.

The Gospel for this Sunday is Mt 11:2-11

1.  A word of introduction

Commentaries on this Gospel often say that John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus as the Messiah. However, something a lot more important is at stake here.  

2.  Keywords

Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 
the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

St. John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the one to come. Jesus’ answer seems puzzling but to contemporary pious Jews, the answer was clear.  Jesus gives a list of things that are performed by Him: the blind can see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed of their disease. These are all mentioned in the Old Testament as signs of the coming of the Messiah. John was well aware of the Messianic prophesies in the Scriptures. 

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, 
“Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet…

People who listen to Jesus know that John is in prison. Many probably doubt whether John the Baptist is really a prophet by the will of God since he is suffering such misfortune.  If he was a prophet, God would probably have miraculously saved him. Jesus makes it clear: John is more than a prophet. His role is special.

…This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.”

Speaking of John, Jesus refers directly to the words of the prophet Malachi about the messenger who is to “prepare the way for God” (Ml 3:1). He compares John’s mission with the promise of Elijah’s coming again. John the Baptist is the announced Elijah.

John is preparing the way for Jesus – the Messiah. But not only that. Malachi’s prophecy refers to Yahweh – God. The announced Elijah is to prepare the way for God Himself. Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus is God. This is the most important message of this Gospel passage.

3.  Today

We sometimes witness or experience difficulties that we do not understand. Like John, let us ask Jesus to help us look at them in the light of faith and recognize the signs of His presence in our lives.

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