St. James tells us at the end of the second reading to, “Take as an example of hardship and patience the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” These are not easy words to swallow. We spend a lifetime avoiding Hardship. We do all we can to make our lives comfortable and enjoyable. As for Patience, need I comment on the virtue, or lack thereof?
The prophets exhibited great Patience not only with the people who did not listen to them, but also with God in the messages they constantly proclaimed because all of their messages point, directly or indirectly, to the promise of the Messiah and none of the prophets, except for John, would experience the fulfillment of their preaching. They also endured great Hardships because their messages were never a validation of the people’s current lifestyle but a call to change their lifestyles and return to God with Faith and Hope while living lives of Charity with each other. Would these prophets find a different response with us?
Imagine being able to leap like a stag or be able to sing with a beautiful voice. For so many of us, these are dreams beyond the realm of reality yet Isaiah promises these attributes to the lame and the mute when the Messiah finally comes. The fulfillment of these promises awaits each of us at the end of time. For this we wait Patiently and endure the Hardships of life, with Faith, Hope and Love.
Jesus’ words at the end of the Gospel seem a bit mystifying but contain a reflection of the prophetic promises of old. In declaring John the “greatest among those born of women,” He speaks in a chronological sense of this age. The Baptist is the greatest because he is the last of the prophets to announce the Messiah. The least of us, however, will be, in the next life, greater than John is in this life. Jesus will not let us forget what lies ahead.