Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” The greatest man born of a woman, even questioned whether his cousin, was the long-awaited Messiah. While imprisoned by Herod, John the Baptist hearing the works of Christ sent his disciples to ask Jesus one question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus answers John’s question by telling his disciples, “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.”
Jesus always answers the questions asked of him, but never in the way an impatient world expects. He always urges the questioner to dive more deeply into the topic by themselves, never demanding them to be overpowered by God’s response. Faith works this way. God always gives room for a person to come to the truth by gently guiding them to answer their inquiries through their own reason. A relationship with God always works in this way, it is a true two-way street. Recall when the angel Gabriel came to the Blessed Mother with the question of whether she would the Mother of God. Mary responded, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” The angel explains God’s plan by stating to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Hardly a direct answer to Mary’s question, but what was said by the angel was pure truth and Mary responded to that truth because of her holiness and then gave her life to God. Nothing summarizes Advent more than this example.
Not quite so simple a task for ordinary sinful people. Even the second most holy person in all of history, St. John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah. If he questioned, then surely, we question too. The real point is when we hear the truth do we embrace as Mary did, or do we seek out another truth. Old questions are as relevant today as they were with our ancestors. How can God apparently debase himself enough to be born in human flesh? How can the Mother of Jesus be sinless from the moment of her conception, how was she kept free from Original Sin? How can Jesus be actually present to his people in a physical way through what seems to be ordinary bread and wine?
The answers are not easily apparent, but it doesn’t mean they are not rational or true. Since we are not the source of truth itself, it makes sense that the search for the truth, or better said, the Messiah, will not be found on our own terms. How many have sought a Messiah through their own agency, only to find the Messiah they were seeking was a creation of their mind? Throughout history, persons have sought a meaning to their lives, finding a god who can make sense of their existence. The ancients had their fertility gods; the Enlightenment spawned a rational and scientific god created through human industriousness; and, the moderns have found their messiah in the earth and her climate.
Advent is a time which reminds the Christian, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” With the words of the prophet Isaiah’s in mind, the search for the Messiah and the truth will not be immediately apparent. We needn’t be impatient though, because we do not need to search out the Messiah on our own, for God is always the initiator of the relationship. Just as Mary was the recipient of God’s message, our mission is to be holy and patient, especially during the season of Advent. If we prepare ourselves in this way, it opens a pathway to the truth and truth itself, no matter how strange the message may be at the outset.