Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
(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 “the 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 belittle him. He merely says that John lies outside the Kingdom because he has not yet committed himself to Jesus. Although he has announced an ambiguous “one coming after me,” John still sees Jesus as a kind of “dumb ox” who must prove himself. Of course, Jesus does that repeatedly once John is arrested. Most wondrously, he shows himself the long-awaited Messiah 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 bought and wrapped. In both cases we need to step back a moment and realize that the purpose of the season. It is to recognize the coming of the one who saves us and not about our doing for others, much less for ourselves. We pray that we may encounter Jesus more deeply and witness to him more convincingly now than ever.