Memorial of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr
(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)
There is a charming story of St. Thomas Aquinas that may help us appreciate Jesus’ appraisal of John the Baptist in today’s gospel. As a student of St. Albert the Great, Thomas was ridiculed by his colleagues as a “dumb ox.” Albert, however, recognizing his student’s genius, commented, “We call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world."
When Jesus says of John “…the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” he does not mean to undermine John’s importance. He only wishes to say that John is great because he announces the coming of the Messiah who has arrived in Jesus himself. Jesus sees John as outside the Kingdom because he has not yet committed himself to Jesus. For John, Jesus is the “dumb ox” who has to prove himself. Of course, Jesus does just that repeatedly but most wondrously by his self-surrender on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
Advent is a busy but also a holy season. Some of us find ourselves overcommitted and needing more time. Others feel satisfied that Christmas greetings have all been mailed and Christmas presents all obtained and wrapped. In both cases we need to step back a moment and realize that the season is about the coming of Jesus, not about human desires. We pray that we may encounter Jesus more deeply and witness to him more clearly now than ever.