The Common Good

This Advent, Embrace a Doubting Faith

In Matthew 11: 2-11, when John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"

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When some people daydream, they daydream about vacations to Europe or winning the lottery. But I have to confess, when I daydream it's about things like how cool it would be if someone made a "VH1 Behind the Music" special about John the Baptist. They could feature interviews with Elizabeth and Zechariah while old photos of young John eating his first locust fade in and out of the background. Then, after, they could go on to feature his juggernaut of a Prophetic career. The fiery street corner preaching, the sold-out crowds at the Jordon. But then his disciples would inevitably talk about when the problems started: "He just never knew when to stop. The success did weird things to him," they would say. "It was like the pressure of being compared to Elijah got to him." So at this point in my daydream there would be a commercial beak with a teaser: "Next on 'VH1's Behind the Music: John the Baptist,' John hits bottom and has a wake up call while in prison."

John the Baptist in Matthew's gospel is pretty much at a low point. He is simply not the guy we think of when we hear the name John the Baptist. Gone is the image of the bug eating wild man shouting repent. Gone is the image of a wild-eyed prophet preparing the way of Lord through his own feral oratories. Gone is the street corner preacher shouting of repentance and fire and brimstone. The screaming and baptizing and preaching to enormous crowds is a distant memory.

Instead, we meet John the Baptist today as he sits imprisoned by Herod and wondering if he maybe got this whole thing wrong. I wonder if he seemed

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