Thursday of the Second Week in Advent
(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)
When the elderly woman was told that she might enjoy reading a popular spiritual writer, she dropped her eyes in humility. Then she explained that she only went to school for a couple of years and never learned to read well. Most of the world, in contrast, is fortunate to have at least a basic education. People may not read enough, but at least they have the basic skills. Likewise most people in the world have access to medical care and hygiene which has dramatically increased the average life span.
If we count our blessings in this way, we can understand why Jesus calls “the least in the kingdom of heaven” greater than John the Baptist. The “least in the kingdom” includes all of us. We are blessed in a way that John was not because we have experienced the fullness of the Kingdom in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Of course, we were not there to witness these events, but in participating in the liturgy of the Church, especially the Eucharist, we encounter for ourselves the risen Christ.
Although John did not witness the Kingdom in its fullness and could not appreciate the extent of God’s love that it brought, he was certainly aware that an experience of God demands human response. John’s constant message was repentance. We must change our sinful ways if we are to benefit from the Kingdom’s blessings. John is the central figure of these middle weeks of Advent because he reminds us that the king who is to come will require some sacrifice on the part of his subjects as he transmits to them the fullness of life.