Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Third Sunday of Advent
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
December 11, 2016
“What did you go out to the desert to see?” Matthew 11:7
Advent is like traveling through a tunnel. I recall many years ago taking a train trip through the mountains. There was a particularly long tunnel, so long in fact that the tunnel was entirely dark for several minutes until some light penetrated the darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel indicated that we were nearing full daylight, and as the train grew closer to the end, the light enlarged from being a tiny speck to becoming fully sunlit.
Christmas takes place in the dead of winter, when days grow shorter and the light is soft and less brilliant. At the same time the colder and shadowy days of the natural world are upon us. Religiously in our life of faith we are moving through this dark tunnel to the fullness of Christ’s light.
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3), ask the disciples of St. John the Baptist. As prominent as the figure of St. John the Baptist was, he and his disciples knew that someone much more important was coming. They were reaching the end of the tunnel. Where was that light?
“Go and tell John what you hear and see,” Jesus responded. “[T]he 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 11:5-6). There is plenty of light, so much so that it is almost blinding. It is interesting that the first group named in that litany of marvels are the blind. They see. They are no longer blind. Light surrounds them.
At the conclusion of this beautiful passage, Jesus says, “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” (Matthew 11:11). John stands head and shoulders above the rest. No one is greater. But John is a messenger. He goes before us leading us out of the tunnel. As great as John is, however, in the full light of Christ which is the kingdom of heaven, the “least” person is greater even than John.
December 14th is the feast of St. John of the Cross, one of our greatest Catholic mystics. In my re-reading of him, I came across a beautiful reflection of his on the faith. Faith and light are intimately connected. “[T]he light given in faith…” communicates “all God’s wisdom… that is, the Son of God, Who is imparted to the soul in faith” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 29, #6).
That is how important faith is. Faith motivates us to reach the end of the dark tunnel. It is founded on a hope that the fullness of light lies ahead of us. The light has in fact penetrated the darkness and given us the object for our faith. Faith in Jesus Christ, because He is the plenitude of God’s wisdom revealed in time, is what we must strive to deepen and strengthen as we travel through this Advent.
Christmas is not about Santa Claus and office parties, as charming as those can be. The season is about Jesus Christ and if we miss that point, we remain in the tunnel and do not move to the light.
Bishop Glen John Provost