How did you get your revenge?

A sermon from Lisa Straßberger, Frankfurt am Main, for the third Advent.

The blind see again, and the lame walk (Mt 11: 5).

When it became clear that I was allowed to preach on this passage of the Gospel, two images came to mind that I could not get rid of: The face of my older friend, guide in the faith, who is gradually, piece by piece, becoming blind - her growing despair. And a news picture of a young person on crutches after crossing a minefield in a war zone. "The blind see again, and the lame walk". "Blessed is he who takes no offense at me," the text goes on to say. Wisely. What can I say about this job and do justice to these two people? Or other people who come to mind right now. Let's take a step back to the question that started today's Gospel passage:

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

What has happened there? John, the relative of Jesus, the great prophet in the desert, the Baptist who turned his life inside out and called for repentance, the man who pointed to Jesus and proclaimed him as the Lamb of God, the militant outsider who did not consider himself worthy enough, to loosen his shoe straps, whose life, it seems, was centered on Jesus from the beginning (the child jumped in her womb, it is said of Elisabeth, his mother, when the pregnant Mary greets her): John is finished. He is imprisoned because of a conflict with King Herod, and his followers are left without him. Death threatens him. And then he asks:

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

Who, if not John, should know the answer to this? One from the closest circle, an initiate, an intrepid one. And he asks after hearing about Jesus' deeds in prison, relates the evangelist Matthew. And has put together a huge list of these miracles, Matthew - for John, for his readers, for us: proclamation of the good news of the near kingdom of God, healing of all illnesses and ailments of the exhausted, healing of the dumb, healing of the blind according to your faith), resurrection of the daughter of the synagogue ruler, healing of the blood-ridden woman (courage, daughter, your faith has brought you healing), meal with sinners (I want mercy and not sacrifice), healing of the paralyzed as a proof of the power to sin forgiven, healing the possessed of Gadara, calming the sea storm, many healings, healing the mother-in-law of Peter, healing the servant of the centurion (Lord, I am not worthy).

Matthew puts all of this right before the crucial question: “John heard about the deeds of Christ in prison. So he sent his disciples to him and had him ask:

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

Just hearing and being close to Jesus was not enough to give him certainty.

That's the situation. What does that mean for us?

We may, we probably must, to remain honest and credible, radically question our lives of faith. Doubt cannot be kept out. When we stand alone on the edge or see others on the edge, faced with death, we can ask the question:

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

We owe the answer. We live in this world of John with its threats and abysses, with violence and injustice, with war, disease, with the blind and the lame and the dead.

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

It's advent. Are we waiting for anyone? Who should come Who does John mean in his question, what do we know about him?

The promise: John refers to the promise in the scriptures of the people of Israel that the Savior should come. With Jesus, the New Testament evangelists align the interpretation of his life entirely with this promise. These central interpretations cannot be understood without the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the scriptures is a central concern of Jesus. Why is it composed that way? Can't Jesus convince for himself alone? This is not just an explosive question for theologians and biblical scholars. But the question also arises to everyone who, out of often understandable protest outside the institution of the church, is looking for their way to or with Jesus. Do we need these ancient traditions, prophecies, mediations? Can't we ask directly: God is you? There. In my distress?

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

Jesus doesn't answer yes or no. Not to John and not to the scribes who want to crucify him because of this.

"Jesus answered them: Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5The blind see again and Lame walk; Lepers get clean and Deaf hear; The dead stand up and the gospel is preached to the poor.6 Blessed is he who takes no offense at me. "

His answer quotes Isaiah, refers the questioning John to his own tradition of faith, to his people's story of hope with God, to his own appropriation of this story. He gives it a context.

"The desert and the dry land should rejoice, / 4 Say to the despondent: / Have courage, do not be afraid! See, here is your God! / The vengeance of God will come, and his retribution; / he himself will come and save you. 5 Then the eyes of the blind are opened, / the ears of the deaf are also open again. 6 Then the lame leaps like a deer, / the tongue of the mute cheers. Fountains break out in the desert / and brooks flow in the steppe. "(Is 35,3-6)

That was a promise, a prophetic view of the future from the experience of faith with God, who is just and faithful. All Jesus does is to fulfill this promise so that people can believe anew and more firmly. It's not about that one Blind people and the one Lame, not, even if we would like it, first about the happiness of the individual who has been healed and the unhappiness of those who are still in prison and therefore have doubts for understandable reasons. It is all about showing that God's promise of salvation and affection is fulfilled in Jesus.

The healings are signs, exclamation marks for everyone: See, as promised: Here is your God! It must be enough. This has to be enough for John in prison, the blind and lame at all times, those who have lost their legs in a minefield, the blind in heart, the doubters in the face of all-embracing need and injustice:

See, here is your God.

He made it come true, he made it come true, not to heal a few fortuitously privileged individuals, but so that we could believe. We all. This brings us closer to the kingdom of God. That we can believe in this infinitely tender, affectionate, omnipotent and impotent God, who looks for indomitable people to point out to him, strange ones, not in fine clothes, locked up. This God, who himself does not shy away from dying in order to remain true to his message and to show that there is a way out: faith. Faith in the God who saves from death.

Johannes, he won't open your dungeon. This God, who makes the blind see and lame, he only sends you these signs into your hole so that you can say for yourself: Here is my God! You don't have to wait any longer. Like Thomas later, you can be certain: "My Lord and my God". Like Simeon, you can say with Hanna when they see the child: "Now, Lord, let your servant part in peace, for my eyes have seen salvation." That is the consolation for John. This is the consolation that Jesus speaks to himself in Psalm 22 from the Scriptures when he groans: Why have you forsaken me? For the text continues: “4 But you are holy, you are enthroned above the praise of Israel. Our fathers trusted you, they trusted and you saved them. They called to you and were set free, they trusted you and were not put to shame. "

Are you the one who is supposed to come or do we have to wait for someone else?

We cannot answer the question, but I wish you the question on this 3rd Advent: that you can ask the question. On this question the conversation between God and man continues. In this conversation there is the traditional experience that God is faithful, a saving, a God turned towards him under the sign of non-violent friendliness and determination. We can be such signs if we seek our faith, live in a humane manner and thereby become legible for others. Everyone is a prophet, be he blind or lame, who keeps an open view of the future and can be asked: "What did you want to see?"

Text: Lisa Straßberger, Catholic Academy Rabanus Maurus, Frankfurt am Main; Image: Gabi Hamann,