As I was thinking last night about yesterday’s Gospel, in which an imprisoned John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another, I was reminded of a Christopher Hitchens video a friend of mine once brought to my attention. In it Hitchens contrasts Socrates and Christ, saying Socrates never said “you’ve got to believe everything I say because my mother never went to bed with anybody and that proves the truth of what I say.”
While Hitchens has a brilliant mind and is a powerful speaker and writer, I remember being irritated when I first listened to that comment because, of course, Jesus never said any such thing. Never did Jesus say, believe in me because my mother was a virgin or was herself immaculately conceived or several of the other things Hitchens says to ridicule Christianity.
When John asks if Jesus is the “one who is to come,” Jesus responds, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepars are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.” Look at the evidence, says Jesus. What does what you see and hear tell you? Jesus doesn’t demand that people rely on his revelation; he invites them to rely on the evidence.
As I reflected again this morning on the scripture passage in light of Hitchens comments, what struck me was the implications this has for our own behavior. The danger of inviting people to rely on the evidence – to consider what they see and hear – is they might actually do that. We know what people see in the world around them – war, famine, poverty, crime, hatred, prejudice – so many causes of suffering. But do they see something else?
For us the question is: what to people see and hear when they look at us? Do they see the presence of Christ in us? Do we demonstrate to the world the presence of God? Do we give people reason (a better reason than the kind of claims that are so easily mocked) to believe in the reality of Christ?
In these waning days of Advent, we might profitably reflect on how we share the Good News of Christ’s incarnation (and life, death and resurrection) with the world.