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Our Deepest Needs
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
When the messengers of John the Baptist had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see—a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom Scripture says: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you. I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
Opening Prayer: Lord, may I always acknowledge your righteousness and accept the plans you have for me. Please do not allow me to be blinded by the lures and charms of this world. Keep my focus on you. Thank you for the gift of this new day and this time for reflection with you. Slow me down and let me rest in the assurance of your love.
- His Righteousness: Today’s first reading ends with this promise from God: “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you” (Isaiah 54:10). God’s love for each and every one of us is unshakeable. His plans are perfect. To “acknowledge his righteousness,” the people in the crowds had to give him the proper place in their lives. They had to acknowledge him as their Lord, Savior, and Messiah. Today we are offered the same choice. Do we make an act of faith each and every day, acknowledging Jesus as Our Lord and the author of our lives? Or do we turn away as the Pharisees and scholars did, convinced of the excellence of our own plans, the importance of our work, and the superiority of our intellect?
- Rejoicing or Rejection?: Today’s responsorial psalm extols God’s saving love: “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” In the Gospel we see the crowds, hungering for meaning, purpose, and salvation. They followed John, and their searching led them to the Messiah. They rejoiced at what they had found. In stark contrast, the Pharisees and scholars rejected what they saw. Their narrow worldview and hard hearts didn’t allow them to see the reality in front of them. We are all constantly striving and seeking to achieve our goals, to find true happiness. In the busyness of life we can get caught up in our to-do lists or our perfectionism and miss what is right before our eyes. God’s love and mercy are constant. We only have to stop and invite him in.
- The Deepest Longings: Jesus asked the people what exactly they were looking for. As he pointed out, they did not go to see John because he was weak or uninspiring. They didn’t rush to see him because he was wealthy or handsomely garbed. They went out into the desert to see him because he spoke words of hope and salvation. As John foretold, Jesus speaks the words that fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. We all want to be loved, to feel that our lives have meaning and purpose. We know that the “handsome garments” of this world, as lovely and enjoyable as they may be, will not fulfill this deep need in our hearts. Jesus reassures us that what we seek is available to us. In his Kingdom, each and every one of us is equally cherished and loved by the Father. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel–“among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he”–imply and confirm his great and personal love for each of us. We are all equals in the love of our Father, who has a beautiful and perfect plan for every human being. It is up to us whether or not we invite him into the daily work, struggles, sufferings, and joys of our lives.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I give you thanks for this time with you. Let me savor the implicit meaning of today’s Gospel. When you say that the least person in the Kingdom is greater than John, you are revealing just how special I am to you. Let me rest in the assurance of your deep and abiding love for me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on the words of Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
For Further Reflection: A Context for Jeremiah 29:11.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in marriage, parenthood, and business for thirty-one years, and are endlessly grateful for the gift of their five young adult children and large extended families. She is a lay member of Regnum Christi.