Prepare The Way

Scripture Reading

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,
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.”
(Matthew 11:2-11)

Scripture Study

11:2. John knew that Jesus was the Messiah (cf. Mt 3:13–17). He sent his disciples to him so that they could shed their mistaken notions about the kind of Messiah to expect, and come to recognize Jesus.

11:3–6. Jesus replies to the Baptist’s disciples by pointing to the fact that they are witnessing the signs that the ancient prophecies said would mark the advent of the Messiah and his Kingdom (cf. Is 35:5, 61:1; etc.). He says, in effect, that he is the prophet who “was to come”. The miracles reported in the Gospel (chaps. 8–9) and the teaching given to the people (chaps. 5–7) prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the expected Messiah.

11:6. Jesus here corrects the mistaken idea which many Jews had of the Messiah, casting him in the role of a powerful earthly ruler—a far cry from the humble attitude of Jesus. It is not surprising that he was a stumbling block to Jews (cf. Is 8:14–15; 1 Cor 1:23).

11:11. With John the Old Testament is brought to a close and we are on the threshold of the New. The Precursor had the honor of ushering Christ in, making him known to men. God had assigned him the exalted mission of preparing his contemporaries to hear the Gospel. The Baptist’s faithfulness is recognized and proclaimed by Jesus. The praise he receives is a reward for his humility: John, realizing what his role was, had said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

St John the Baptist was the greatest in the sense that he had received a mission unique and incomparable in the context of the Old Testament. However, in the Kingdom of heaven (the New Testament) inaugurated by Christ, the divine gift of grace makes the least of those who faithfully receive it greater than the greatest in the earlier dispensation. Once the work of our redemption is accomplished, God’s grace will also be extended to the just of the Old Alliance. Thus, the greatness of John the Baptist, the Precursor and the last of the prophets, will be enhanced by the dignity of being made a son of God.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist as the messenger preparing the way for Jesus. John speaks: “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path…” He is saying that his job is to prepare for the mighty coming of the Lord. He is to build the highway that will facilitate his arrival. A change is coming, a revolution is on the way, a disaster (the destruction of the old) is about to happen. Prepare the way of the Lord.

And what is the manner of preparation? It is a baptism of repentance. Baptism—an immersion in water—reminded first century Jews of the exodus, passing through the Red Sea, leaving the ways of slavery behind. God would humble the powers of their time as he once humbled Egypt and Babylon.

And repentance? It simply means going beyond the mind that you have. How our minds are conditioned by the fallen world! How our expectations are shaped, stunted by what has gone before. It’s time, John is saying, for a new mind, a new set of eyes, a new kind of expectation. God is about to act. Be ready!

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 




[1] Saint Matthew’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 91–92.