Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary # 185. Thurs of second week in Advent. Isaiah
41:13-20. Psalm 145: 1.9.10-11.12-13. Matthew 11:11-15.
We continue to move through Advent and once again it is John the Baptist
who is our guide for this day. Jesus speaks of him and identifies his role
in bringing about the advent of the kingdom of God (God’s bigger picture of
salvation history for all peoples of all times). We look to John for
particular guidance on this day in his continuing to witness to the one who
is to come and to his spirit of personal reform. John is bringing the great
prophetic announcements and promises to their fulfillment in his ushering
in the messiah and the kingdom the messiah will procalim. Unlike what we
and all expected he will be a suffering messiah not a royal one and his
kingdom is not of this realm.
Jesus points out the greatness of John but also asserts that the least in
the kingdom of God are greater than John! Jesus seems to like to throw
paradoxes at us through his preaching and teaching. He wants us to think
and probe into the deeper meanings of his words which are never empty or
inane. Then we come up agains a real stumper in this verse recorded by
Matthew: “The kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by
force.” What does violence have to do with Jesus’ preaching and teaching?
How can he say this and yet proclaim a message of peace and justice?
Again, he must be leading us to think this through on a deeper level than
meets the eye and the ear.
Father John P.Meier in his commentary on Matthew gives us a good way of
looking at this troublesome verse. “Jesus continues the theme of of the
greatness and yet limitations of John in v.12, a verse which could have two
opposite meanings. More likely, the sense is : the violent opponent of the
kingdom, the Herodians and the Pharisees, are trying to block the kingdom’s
coming and are trying to snatch the kingdom away from those who would
receive it (cf.23:13). But possibly, the sense is : the kingdom of God is
entering the world with explosive power and those who earnestly desire to
enter it pay any price to become disciples….More than a prophet who was
to prepare God’s people before the coming of the Messiah and the final
judgment. He is the Elijah-firgure promised by Malachai 4:5-6. The ironic
“if you are willing to accept it” is balanced by an urgent call for wisdom
and decision in v.15: listen attentively to this mysterious teaching about
John and myself, and decide accordingly.” (Meier, New Testament Message:
John will be among those who suffer the violence of those who oppose the
kingdom; he enters into witnessing in such a passionate way that he
violently experiences death for his eagerness to point out the one who is
to come. Martyrs are eager and passionate for the sake of the kingdom. They
help us to overcome our little problems and pains by what they passionately
embraced for the sake of the kingdom. Their effort compels us to at least
understand their message and their greatness. They are the real heroes in
our life and lead us to the kingdom of heaven. Amen.