In Matthew 11:2-6, John the Baptist does something curious:
After hearing about Jesus' ministry, John sends word to him from prison asking, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we wait for another?"
John had been preaching about Jesus' coming and baptizing people in preparation for this event. He even met and baptized Jesus and knew immediately that he was The One.
So why, suddenly, does he appear to doubt?
Perhaps he wonders why Jesus does not free him from prison.
Perhaps, in despair, he wants to be sure that his preaching and suffering is not in vain.
Maybe he hears of Jesus' socializing with undesirables and healing them, and wonders if this really could be the Son of Man come to judge the living and the dead.
Or perhaps, his question prompts Jesus to verbally acknowledge, to himself, and others, that his is no ordinary ministry.
Jesus answers: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them."
Jesus' response reminds John of the words of the prophet Isaiah -- a prophecy he has come to fulfill. Conveniently, we are reminded of those very words in today's first reading:
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
John's message of judgment is perhaps better suited for the Second Coming, not the first; Isaiah and Jesus together remind us that none of us will truly "meet with joy and gladness" until all of us, including those poor, injured and forgotten, are healed and believe.
Jesus' ministry of signs and wonders was necessary to make clear his divinity and mission on Earth. Until he returns, it is up to us to use our humble, mortal means to help our fellow men and women see, hear and believe; not with damning judgment, but with compassion and healing.