Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church
(Isaiah 45:6c-8.18.21c-25; Luke 7:18b-23)
There is a famous story about King Richard, the Lion-heart, and Saladin, the Muslim sultan, who met during the Third Crusade. In the peaceful encounter Richard attempted to show the capability of his sword by cutting through a steel bar. Richard brought the sword down on the bar which broke in two. But the sultan was not overly impressed. He told Richard that his strength, not the sword’s sharpness, caused the bar to split. Then Saladin took out his scimitar, threw a silk scarf in the air and let it fall on the sword’s blade. As it did, the scarf tore in two. The scimitar proved to be the keener sword. The story illustrates the point Jesus makes in today’s gospel.
John the Baptist appears disillusioned by Jesus. He thought that Jesus would be the long-awaited Messiah but has misgivings when Jesus does not preach fire much less punish wrong-doers. Rather he eats with sinners while calling them to conversion. Jesus offers evidence of his being Messiah that he consistently assists the needy. Doing so, Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s first reading that the Lord will create well-being.
We are often so fascinated by power that we tend to think of it as God’s chief characteristic. It is not. Love characterizes God in both testaments of Scripture. God’s love translates into care for His people which is seen especially in the ministry of Jesus.