Gospel of Matthew 11:2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off,Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
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.”
This week’s Gospel makes me think of how frequently our rigid expectations can damage our faith and mental health. In the Gospel, it sounds to me like Jesus is addressing people who were likely taken aback by seeing John the Baptist dressed in a camel’s hair and eating locusts. While these seem like strange behaviors, Jesus said there was no one greater than John the Baptist. In this passage, people let their expectations get in the way of the holiness and beauty that was right before their eyes.
It reminds of when C.S. Lewis wrote, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” It is easy to miss what is in front of us when we have preconceived notions and expectations for how things or people are “supposed to be.”
We do this with others as well as when we look inward at ourselves. We often apply “shoulds” to our thoughts, feelings, and desires. However, we need to remember that God meets us where we are and that we are not only acceptable but desired and loved where we are. It is a delicate balance of knowing that we are loved how and where we are in the present moment, but still in need of growing in holiness and virtue.
A young man once told me, “God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there.” When we forget this and are hard on ourselves or others because we had expectations for where we should be now and what we should have accomplished, we sow discouragement and despair. If you find yourself being hard on others or yourself because of rigid expectations, consider reflecting on Christ’s words about John the Baptist in today’s Gospel.