American Heroes,
Street art by Guido Van Helten (born 1986),
Spray paint on wall,
Executed in 2016
© Guido Van Helten

American Heroes,
Street art by Guido Van Helten (born 1986),
Spray paint on wall,
Executed in 2016
© Guido Van Helten

Gospel of 16 December 2020

'Are you the one who is to come?'

Luke 7:19-23

John, summoning two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?' When the men reached Jesus they said, 'John the Baptist has sent us to you, to ask, "Are you the one who is to come or have we to wait for someone else?"' It was just then that he cured many people of diseases and afflictions and of evil spirits, and gave the gift of sight to many who were blind. Then he gave the messengers their answer, 'Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.'

Reflection on the Factory Street Artwork

Our reading today takes place against the backdrop of St John the Baptist being in prison, having been put there by Herod Antipas. St John heard some news about what Jesus had been doing, prompting him to ask to Jesus, 'Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?' This shows that St John must have been confused as to what Jesus was doing. Maybe St John was expecting the Messiah to come with judgement, wrath and fire; so hearing that Jesus was healing people, caring for the poor, teaching people and even raising the dead, he might have been somewhat puzzled; hence his question. That is probably why Jesus responded the way He did in our reading (''Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear….), rather than give a straightforward 'yes' saying he was the Messiah indeed.

Sometimes Jesus' answers to our questions are not what we expect. We can't help but have romantic, unreal, unfounded, ambitious expectations about what God's answers to our prayers might be. But His answers are often very unexpected. Sometimes they don't even look like answers. Sometimes it looks as if even more troubles or disappointments are sent our way. When God begins to answer our prayers, we often can find His answers disorienting. Today's reading teaches us to expect the unexpected!

In 2015 there was a downtown revitalisation project in Fort Smith, turning it into a world-class destination for urban and contemporary public art. The project was titled The Unexpected. Every year a new large-scale artwork created in an unexpected setting (like our three massive figures painted on some factory mills) gets added to the collection now of 30 pieces… The inhabitants of Fort Smith have learnt to expect the unexpected, every year...

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