December 3, 1999 Homily: Isaiah 29: 17-24; Matthew 9: 27-31

ONLY A LITTLE WHILE... LEAVING THE OBSCURITY OF THE DARK EYES WILL SEE. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to inquire of Jesus whether he was the true Messiah, the Lord replied by referring to this passage from the prophet Isaiah, as evidence that the miracles he performed, such as restoring sight to the blind, justified his claim.

The Book of Isaiah was surely one of the most important for our Lord who himself had carefully meditated it and came to understand his mission in light of a number of its passages. The chief one is, to be sure, chapter 53 that describes the suffering servant. The figure described there was seen by the Evangelists to foreshadow our Lord in his passion and death. These lines had a large influence on the way the Gospels represent the Lord's unjust, humiliating and painful death. During Advent the liturgy makes use of many other passages to instruct us concerning the kind of Messiah we are to expect when the Lord appears in the flesh.

Today's first reading is one such text. It has a particular significance from the fact that, as we have seen, Jesus himself refers to it in a way that suggests it played a role in his self- understanding. The fact that he was commissioned by the Father to go about doing good, giving health to the sick, hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind was quite possibly made known to him through this very passage. In its predictions and description of the kinds of things the people should expect when the anointed of the Lord appeared on the scene. That this text was well known to John the Baptist Jesus presupposes so that applying these attributions to himself served as proof of his claim.

There have been any number of self-styled enlightened moderns, scholars among them, who consider that any account in the Bible that portrays Jesus or the prophets as miracle workers is an indication of legend-making tendencies. They take it for granted that miracles simply do not happen. This is sheer prejudice and can be refuted not only by the Biblical evidence but by the occasional miracles that continue to occur in our own times. For any one who believes that Jesus is truly the Word of God made man, there is no intrinsic obstacle to taking such accounts as we find in today's Gospel as historically true. Jesus gave sight to the blind by the healing power of his word. He did so as a sign that the kingdom of God had come and that he was himself its initiator. Thus he has a right to be listened to and believed in.

The Advent season is a time for sharpening our hearing and for seeking the spiritual light that is a gift of the Spirit of God so that we might be able to open ourselves more fully and generously when the Lord comes to us. Christmas is a memorial of a coming that happens every day and not just the anniversary of the birth of the Word in the flesh. As the Lord comes to us in the Eucharist may our senses be refined and purified by his light and life that he shares with us. Then shall we ourselves contribute to the fulfilling of Isaiah's prophecy which goes on to declare of the people of God that "they will proclaim the holiness of my name." May we so live as to make this proclamation faithfully and clearly to all those who have ears to hear.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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