Dear brothers and sisters,
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,”
Our brother Matthew blesses us with the good news of the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior, the Redeemer of mankind. His arrival is announced by John the Baptist in last Sunday’s gospel and today is doubted by the same John the Baptist.
Matthew tackles head on the doubts we may have. He does not try to evade our questions, confusions, skepticism, and doubts. He teaches us not to fear them but to bring them to our Lord Jesus just as John the Baptist presented his own doubts and fears to our Lord from the dungeon of Herod’s palace.
Notice how our Lord responds. He tells the disciples of John the Baptist to go back and tell him how the promises of God of the coming of the Messiah made through the prophet Isaiah are being fulfilled in the their midst: “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,” (Matthew 11:5).
Matthew teaches us today that our Lord will always refer to Himself as the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. We are being taught to see and understand the works of our Lord in our midst today in the light of His promises He made to our ancestors in the faith which are recorded in the Old Testament.
Our Lord teaches the disciples of John the Baptist to never lose sight of writings in the law and prophets of the Old Testament for through them He was preparing humanity for His coming that they may then understand how He is working in our midst today.
John the Baptist must have observed the fulfillment of his own words in his own life, words which we heard in last Sunday’s gospel: :Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees,” (Matthew 3:10). He too was being cut down at the root, he too was being pruned so that he too could bear fruit, the fruit of eternal life.
Greatest as John the Baptist was among all born of women, among all human beings, he still needed pruning for the kingdom, to be pruned right down to the roots for the kingdom of heaven is reserved only for the least, the humble, the sinless, the pure, like the Immaculate Mary.
So when we look about and see the trees of our individual lives and the life of our parishes, dioceses, communities, nations and the cosmos being cut down to the roots, Isaiah tells us in the first reading today, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you,” (Isaiah 35:4).
Let us not forget Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He is being cut down to the roots with us. He is Immanuel, God with us and for us, dying with us and for us, rising with us and for us. Do not be afraid! – Fr. Simi.