by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
Last Sunday, we heard the earlier part of Matthew’s Gospel where Matthew describes how John the Baptist is the one coming to prepare the way of the Lord. Remember, John began to teach in the desert of Judea. His message was, “Change your ways, the reign of God is at hand.” Matthew said it was about him, this is John the Baptist, about whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said, “A voice is crying in the wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” That was John the Baptist, a powerful preacher, one drawing great crowds to follow him, providing those crowds with a baptism of water for the repentance of sin.
Now in today’s Gospel, we see a totally different John the Baptist. To me, it’s a very poignant scene. Here is this great prophet preaching so powerfully. Clearly, God was with him. Now he’s in a dungeon, a prison, because he had rebuked Herod the king and Herod punished him, humiliated him, threw him into this prison, and John was just left there. His followers had dispersed. Many of them were, in fact, following Jesus.
John must have begun to have some doubts about his own role and now about Jesus. So he sends these disciples of his — a few that are there to be with him and provide him some assistance — to ask Jesus this very important question: Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? John had thought the reign of God was ready to break forth and that Jesus was now the Messiah, the one sent by God, the anointed one to make the reign of God happen.…