On first reading, this is one of those passages Sundays that we preachers find frustrating. We just had John the Baptist last week, and now we have him again! How much can we say about John?
But there really are two different pictures of John the Baptist. Like most of us, he had many facets. Last week, we got the picture we normally associate with John (click here for last week’s Gospel lesson). Preaching and baptizing, calling out the Pharisees and Sadducees (“You brood of vipers!”), talking about burning the chaff with “unquenchable fire.”
But that’s not the whole picture. Last Sunday, we heard of John the Confident — some would even say Arrogant. He was sure of his message, and confident that the people needed to hear it. But this Sunday, we hear John the Questioning, John the Uncertain (click here for this Sunday’s Gospel lesson). Here, John is in prison, and hears of all that Jesus is doing. But now he isn’t sure, so he sent some of his disciples to talk to Jesus and find out. We still don’t know the whole story, but by this time John is in prison and he no longer seems so certain of his message.
Isn’t that the way with most of us? We drift from moments of confidence to moments of uncertainty? And we are left wondering, “Do I really believe? Do I really have faith?” If no less a figure than John the Baptist had his moments of doubt and questioning, ought now we to expect the same in our lives?
When you have moments of doubt, do what John did. Take it to Jesus! Just as John’s questions were taken seriously and he was given the assurance he needed, so to Jesus will teach and not condemn us when we care enough to want to be sure!
This column appeared in the December 15, 2019 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current issue.