Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)
The venerable teacher called his students “pinheads.” The adolescents, however, did not take offense. Indeed, they perked up at the appellation. Similarly, the exiled people of Israel respond when Isaiah calls their nation “worm” and “maggot.” The prophet’s message is full of good news. Not only does it promise rescue from captivity but also a first-class ticket home.
Early in Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist hurled similar insults at his visitors. “Brood of vipers,” he called the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to see him in another desert. They and the rest of his following had to change their lives or face God’s wrath. Yet for all the power of John’s message, it missed the heart of the revelation of the Kingdom. Jesus has shown how God’s rule is more like a Father’s loving correction than a governor’s harsh penal system. This is why Jesus can make the extraordinary claim in today’s gospel. He says that the least in the Kingdom – that is, the humblest person who comes to know God’s love -- is greater than the mighty Baptist.
We have to choose between the two visions of God. We can live in fear of God as John exhorted or we can rejoice in gratitude of having God as our Father. If we choose to see God as a vindictive judge, we will miss the joy of being His children. Most likely we will come to resent His authority as well. If we live in gratitude to our loving Father in heaven, our lives will radiate His goodness to all.