On this Second Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to reflect on the character of St. John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. Talk about having Faith! Just imagine the scene. For generations the Jewish people have been living in hopeful expectation for the coming of the Messiah, the one who would save them from all their enemies. The Scriptures speak of Him, the prophets promise Him, and all the religious activity centers on the hope that in the fullness of time, a Messiah will come and be their salvation.
The whole purpose of St John the Baptist’s life was to have faith that this would come to be and to demonstrate this faith. It was an active faith. He lived in the desert. He deprived himself of ordinary comforts and only ate locusts and honey. Have you ever seen a locust? Google it. It does not look very appetizing. And at the same time, he preached that the coming of the Messiah was near.
Just think about that for a second. To hope about His coming privately it is one thing, to share with close friends about it maybe or your family. But to go out to the streets and to preach to anyone who would listen? That takes deep faith that the promises of God are trustworthy even though we are still waiting to see them come to fruition. How was he able to have such faith?
First, his depth of faith didn’t just appear. He was prepared for his vocation. He was formed in his faith from the time he was a young boy. He was taught the Scriptures. He knew the story of salvation. He heard of all the promises God made and how He fulfilled them. In times of doubt, John could recall those stories and remember the faithfulness of God.
Secondly, he was a man of deep prayer. When he struggled and didn’t see what God was doing, he sought God, and in prayer found His comfort. Prayer and fasting were the spiritual tools he employed to keep himself focused on God and relying on Him.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he was humble. When the crowds thought John was the promised Messiah, he replied to them, “The one who is coming after me is mightier than I; I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11). St John the Baptist knew who he was and who he wasn’t, and this knowledge led him to embrace suffering willingly even though he was persecuted for his faith and ultimately put to death.
In our own lives, we are presented with opportunities to live in the darkness of faith. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” Like St. John the Baptist, we are invited to lean on what the Lord has already taught us. To remind ourselves of the faithfulness and goodness of God. To reflect on the times when God has answered our prayers and drawn near to us. To remember that He always has a plan even when we cannot see beyond what we are experiencing in the moment.
In the moments we struggle with faith the most, we are called to draw near to the Lord in prayer. To enter the darkness and allow the Lord to find us there. To be honest with our pain and confusion. In times of suffering, it is helpful to not try to reject the suffering. Ironically, it’s in our humble acceptance that we can begin to carry the suffering. We allow the Lord to carry it with us, and in that we begin to see the light burst through the darkness.
When we can find the Lord, we realize we are not alone, and our faith begins to come to fruition. God is with us.