I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.
For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
Who announced this from the beginning
and foretold it from of old?
Was it not I, the LORD,
besides whom there is no other God?
There is no just and saving God but me.
Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!
By myself I swear,
uttering my just decree
and my unalterable word:
To me every knee shall bend;
by me every tongue shall swear,
Saying, “Only in the LORD
are just deeds and power.
Before him in shame shall come
all who vent their anger against him.
In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory
of all the descendants of Israel.”
At that time,
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?'”
At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits;
he also granted sight to many who were blind.
And Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
I. THEME: There is only one God.
People can sin against God both in happiness and in suffering. People forget about God when they are prosperous and happy because they think it is due to their own effort or other gods. People deny God when they have to face hardship and suffering because they ponder if God is powerful and love, why does He let suffering happen to people, especially to the “innocence”? Therefore, they come to the conclusion either God isn’t mighty or God doesn’t love people, so they refuse to believe in Him.
Today readings ascertain that there is only one God and He governs all things in this world according to His wise providence. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah declared that there is only one God: He created the world and everything in it; He governs all things that happened, good and bad; and He has power to liberate people from sins and to give salvation to those who firmly believe in Him. In the Gospel, John Baptist sent his two disciples to ask Jesus:
“Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
1/ Reading I: I am God, there is no other god except me.
1.1/ God is the only god: When talking about God’s power, Jewish and the Church’s tradition used to mention three main activities of God, they are creation, providence and salvation. Today Isaiah’s passage described these three activities as follows:
(1) He created all things in the world: Isaiah declared: “I the Lord have created it. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who formed the earth and made it.”
(2) He governs all things that happen in the world: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who do all these things.” According to the Church’s teaching, God in His providence created both light and darkness, He let all calamities happen, such as: volcano, earthquake, hurricane… but moral sins are completely from human beings because He gives them freedom to choose.
(3) He bestows salvation on people: God has power to educate people even by letting people to suffer from diseases, pains and captivity; but if they repent from their sins, He has power to liberate them. In Jewish history, God liberated the Jews from their slavery of the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron. He used Cyrus, the Persian king to liberate people and to help them to rebuild the Temple and to re-establish their nation. He also sent the Messiah to redeem people from their sins, as the prophet Isaiah announced today: “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth, and let it cause righteousness to spring up also.”
1.2/ Human attitude before God’s works: First, people need to ascertain that whatever God promises He never retracts it. Isaiah showed this through His oracle: “By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: `To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’ Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed, all who were incensed against him. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.”
In order to inherit salvation, people need to center their life around God and completely trust in Him. If people rely on God, they shall be victorious; but if they rely on their strength or other gods, He shall let them alone for evil and worldly power to devour them, and they will be ashamed and suffered.
2/ Gospel: Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.
2.1/ The question of John Baptist: There are many hypotheses on the question of two John Baptist’s disciples: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
(1) He doubted that Jesus is the Messiah: The Jewish tradition believed in a powerful Messiah. When he comes he shall use his power and might to chase out foreign forces and to recover the lofty position for the Jews. When John Baptist didn’t see this happened, his faith in Jesus was shaking.
(2) Though John Baptist believed in Jesus, he wanted to let his two disciples to find out for themselves and to confirm their faith by the direct answer from Jesus’ mouth. One can hear other to talk about Jesus or read books that describe him; but to have a firm belief in him, he needs to have a direct experience with Jesus.
(3) John was confining in prison, and this painful seizing caused his faith to shake. He might ask why Jesus didn’t use his power to liberate him or to send his angels to set them free from prison?
All these hypotheses have a reason because they are based on Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples.
2.2/ The answer of Jesus: Luke the evangelist paid attention to three important things in Jesus’ answer.
(1) Jesus had power to heal: “In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight.” The two disciples witnessed these miracles and their faith must be confirmed by them.
(2) Jesus confirmed John’s faith: Suffering in prison is necessary to purify and to confirm people’s faith. In the last sentence, Jesus indirectly advised John Baptist and his two disciples: “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
(3) Jesus reminded John that he is the one whom the prophet Isaiah announced and he fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Our faith in God must be confirmed and grown everyday in order to help us to withstand challenges in life. If not, we shall easily be succumbed to challenges and turning our back to God.
– When facing challeges, instead of blaming on God, we should examime ourselves to find out why these challenges happened. It may be a wake-up call for us to return to God, or an occasion for us to confirm our faith.