Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)
The venerable teacher had the peculiarity of calling his students “pinheads.” The adolescents under his tutelage, however, did not take offense. Indeed, they perked up at the appellation. In this way the people of Israel probably respond to Isaiah when he calls their nation “worm” and “maggot” in the first reading. The prophet’s message certainly should capture their attention. Not only does it promise rescue from captivity but also a first-class ticket home.
Early in the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist hurls similar insults as the prophet Isaiah. “Brood of vipers,” he calls the Pharisees and Sadducees who visit him in another desert. The people cling to his word, but for all its power his message still falls short of the full revelation of the Kingdom. Jesus will show how God’s rule is much more like a Father’s care for his family than a governor’s harsh penal system. This is why Jesus can make the extraordinary claim that the least in the Kingdom – the tiniest one who comes to know the love of God -- is greater than the mighty Baptist.
We have to choose between the two visions of God. Will we live in fear of God as John exhorted? If so, we will be careful to follow all the rules. We will also judge others for how they comply. Or will we live in gratitude of having God as our Father. Our lives will be even more exemplary as we strive to emulate His love for all.