Blessed Are They Who Take No Offense At Me
by Robert K. Wagner
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
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."
This Sunday’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist in prison, nearing the end of his life. Some of disciples still attend to him, which likely discomforts John. He came to prepare the way for the Messiah that others may follow Him. He humbly said, “He must increase, I must decrease,” when the crowds left him to follow Jesus (cf. Jn 3:26-30). But now, with his earthly mission almost complete, some still remain at his side instead of seeking to know Jesus.
So John gives some who remain with him a mission: Go to Jesus and ask Him, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?” These words are puzzling coming from John the Baptist because all previous evidence shows he clearly knows Jesus is the Messiah. But the answer to this question is not for him. Instead, by sending his disciples on this mission, John allows them to encounter the Son of God themselves, offering anew the opportunity that they might find salvation through Him.
When John’s disciples find Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come?” Our Lord invites them to see the divine signs that accompany His ministry: The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame and the lepers are healed, and salvation is offered to all, even the poorest of the poor. With this confirmation, they can return and assure John the Baptist that Jesus is truly the Messiah. More importantly, now they can believe John’s testimony that Jesus truly is the Son of God.
However, Jesus also offers them somewhat of a warning, saying, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” This may have surprised the crowds around Him. Who takes offense at the One who heals and preaches salvation? But in His perfect knowledge, Jesus knows better. He knows God’s truth and love stir our hearts, illuminate our darkness, and often require drastically new ways of thinking and living from us. He knows the hard-hearted and unrepentant will be offended by Him, His words and His works. He knows He Himself will be rejected and persecuted, as will His disciples and His church.
When we are honest with ourselves, each and every one of us can recognize some areas where this is true in our relationship with Jesus. Certainly we have faith that He is the Messiah, but some aspects of Him, His teaching and His church may make us uneasy or offend us, and keep us from giving our selves completely to Him. Perhaps it is the promise of persecution and a daily cross that come with being His disciple. Or it might be the command to love our enemies and forgive those who sin against us. Maybe it is His teaching on marriage, or sacredness of all human life, or the final judgment that awaits us all. It may even be something from our past, a painful wound left by something or someone that keeps us from drawing any closer to Jesus and His church.
Whatever it is, as Christians, we should pray for the grace not only to identify what makes us uncomfortable about Jesus and His church but also the grace to obtain the knowledge, healing, courage or whatever help we may need to overcome these obstacles. To be disciples and saints requires a life of constant conversion as we shed the attachments to this world and allow ourselves to be transformed by God. It requires personal prayer, the sacraments and a deeper understanding of the life-giving — and often challenging — truths of our faith.
Something kept the last of John’s disciples from Jesus, something about Him that did not meet their expectations or challenged their way of thinking or acting. Therefore, they remained with John the Baptist, holding fast to their misconceptions and their comfortable ways, and drawing no closer to the One who came to save them.
As Our Savior approaches this Advent season, let us earnestly strive to remove all obstacles that might impede us from joyfully welcoming Him into our hearts. Let us seek His truth and His love — even when they challenge or contradict us — and allow ourselves to be transformed. And blessed are we when we take no offense at Jesus.
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index