About once a month Fr. Bob decides to have a seat and Deacon Sal gives the homely at St. Anthony of Padua. Today was that day and he reflected on the Gospel and an interesting question from it.
The full Gospel is here but the relevant part are verses 2 and 3
When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Deacon Sal talked about how all his life he has been one to ask questions. So the question came to him: “Since John baptized Jesus and saw the Glory of God, why did he need to send his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one to come?”
Sal’s idea was that John’s sent his disciples not for the sake of himself but for their benefit so that they would come to believe.
I’m not so sure myself, I think it is entirely consistent with Biblical precedent, Catholic tradition, and reality for even people who have seen to doubt.
Consider the children of Israel, they saw the plagues, they saw the Red Sea Parted, they saw God come through for them over and over again and what was the result? They doubted and rebelled over and over again.
And of course over and over again they repented and God forgave them. The cycle of faith, falling, repentance and forgiveness is not only repeated but is prophesied.
Consider Peter: He saw a miracle at his first meeting with Christ, He saw Christ walk on water and then lost faith and started to sink himself. After seeing everything that happened he denied Christ three times yet became the leader of the Apostles.
And during the time of persecution as tradition tells us Peter was fleeting and only turning back when he encountered Christ, asking “Domine Quo Vardis?” (Lord where are you going?) and getting the reply “Eo Romam iterum crucifigi.” (I go to Rome to be crucified once again.) Rising, failing and trying again, Peter was in the same boat as the rest of us.
As her diary tells us even Mother Theresa had her doubts on occasion, yet she continued to work through them and even in death reminded the world of the difference between fame and faith.
And of course it reflects the Sacrament of Confession, we fall, we repent, we are forgiven and we rise again.
And so we are back to John the Baptist. John after spending a lifetime serving God and preaching repentance finds himself in jail and destined for death. This is his lowest point, how strange would it be for him to despair (Remember Christ himself asked for the cup to be taken from him if possible). If a disciple like Peter who was with Christ every day could still have doubts, how odd would it be for John to have the same particularly at his lowest point?
And this is where verse 11 comes into play:
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Why is this true? It’s true because the least in the Kingdom of Heaven has completed the trial of life, they have completed the race and stand before the glory of God.
Our atheistic friends would love to make our doubts define us but for centuries some of the most educated and greatest minds man has seen went through the same circular process only to arrive back home to faith.
John the Baptist was simply doing what we all should, when faced with doubt asking Christ for reassurance. May we always follow his example.