The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2015, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God? Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest person born. Who can top that as a compliment? But in the same breath Jesus says that the least in the kingdom of God is even greater than John! That sounds like a contradiction, right? Unless you understand that what Jesus was about to accomplish for our sake would supersede all that the prophets had done and foreseen.
“Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel”
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the forsaken and dispersed people of Israel some 700 years before the birth of Christ that “your Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel” would come to restore his people and to make all things new (Isaiah 41:14ff). When the Messiah and Redeemer of Israel did appear John the Baptist announced his arrival. He fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets – to be fingers pointing to Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed Son and Messiah. John proclaimed Jesus’ mission at the Jordan River when he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). John saw from a distance what Jesus would accomplish through his death on the cross – our redemption from bondage to sin and death and our adoption as sons and daughters of God and citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
The spirit of Elijah is sent in advance through John’s words
John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who point the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He is the herald who prepares the way for Jesus the Messiah. Jesus confirms that John has fulfilled the promise that Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). Jesus declares that John is nothing less that the great herald whose privilege it was to announce the coming of the Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel.
Jesus equates the coming of the kingdom of heaven with violence (Matthew 11:12). John himself suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded. Since John’s martyrdom to the present times the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent men. The blood of the martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to this fact. The martyrs witness to the truth – the truth and love of Jesus Christ who shed his blood to redeem us from slavery to sin and Satan and the fear of death. The Lord Jesus gives us the power of his Holy Spirit to overcome fear with faith, despair with hope, and every form of hatred, violence, jealousy, and prejudice with love and charity towards all – even those who seek to destroy and kill.
We proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Christ even in the midst of suffering and violence
God may call some of us to be martyrs for our faith in Jesus Christ. But for most of us our call is to be drymartyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the Gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord Jesus. What attracts others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. He will fill us with the power of his Holy Spirit and give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith. Are you eager to witness to the joy and freedom of the Gospel?
“Lord Jesus, by your cross you have redeemed the world. Fill me with joy and confidence and make me a bold witness of your saving truth that others may know the joy and freedom of the Gospel of your kingdom of peace and righteousness.”
IN THE “I” OF THE STORM
“I am the Lord, your God, Who grasp your right hand.” —Isaiah 41:13
As long as the great I AM is Lord of your life, you have no reason to fear the storms of life (Is 41:13-14). Even if you feel as weak and worthless as a worm or maggot, the great I AM can make you so powerful that you will crush mountains (Is 41:14-15). If you submit your “I” to the I AM, He will open up rivers and springs in the desert to remove your afflictions and provide for your needs (Is 41:17-18). The desert of the “I,” ego, and self will be transformed into the life-giving forest of the I AM (see Is 41:19) — if we die to “I” to live for Him (Lk 9:23).
The main problem in life is that many of us try to solve our problems ourselves. Without Jesus, the great I AM (Jn 8:24, 28, 58), we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not” (Prv 3:5). “Rely not on your wealth; say not: ‘I have the power.’ Rely not on your strength in following the desires of your heart” (Sir 5:1-2). “Commit to the Lord your way; trust in Him, and He will act” (Ps 37:5). The worst mistake you can make is to try to “do it yourself.” The best thing you can do is to “let it be done” to you according to God’s Word (Lk 1:38). The “I’s have it,” that is, the problems. The I AM alone has the answers. Die to “I”; live for the I AM.
Prayer: Father, not my will but Yours be done (Mt 26:39). Promise: “I solemnly assure you, history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer. Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he.” —Mt 11:11 Praise: William and Ann let God back in their troubled marriage. Jesus increased their love and joy, and gave them the grace to overcome their troubles.
Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from December 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.
†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 2015.
The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements