Monday, December 15, 2008
Another Thing about John the Baptist
It occurred to me yesterday as I was about to preach St. Matthew 11 that there's another thing I hadn't considered before.
The question of how one preaches on John the Baptist in prison may depend on what one thinks about his prenatal state, as Fr Curtis has pointed out at Gottesdienst Online, though then again it may not.
I don't happen to think John was cleansed of original sin while in the womb, as I have my own version of 'pious' speculation on how lots of that sort of that pious speculation has arisen. And yet I have preached on many occasions that John did not ask the doubting question "Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another" not for himself but for his disciples. One does not have to hold he had had his original sin removed in order to think that he did not doubt here; you need not say he could not have doubted in order to say that he did not doubt. After all, he knew full well who Jesus was, and had seen the Spirit descend on him as he baptized him. All he had to do was remember that in order to be sure.
And yet--here's the thing I hadn't considered--in John's role as forerunner, it is his office to teach the Church, not only by what he says, but by example. So therefore, what do you do when you are beset with circumstances which might produce doubt or second-thoughts? You go back to Jesus and ask him: "Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
That little thing provides an excellent opportunity for preaching.