Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 11:11-15)
Today’s scripture can seem contradictory.
Jesus praises John the Baptist as the greatest man born of women but then says the kingdom of heaven is greater. Jesus then goes on to talk about the kingdom of heaven being taken by violent people.
In a world marred by violence, we need to understand the meaning of violence lest it serve as a catalyst for those use violence to abuse, destroy or cause mayhem.
It is fact that there are martyrs throughout history who have died by physical violence. We’ve seen it in the sufferings of the apostles, the slaughter of so many martyrs, the persecution of the Church throughout time right down to what our brothers and sisters are suffering today in some countries.
Most of us will never see that type of violence. But there is a cost of entering the Kingdom. We need to seize the Kingdom by doing violence of a different sort. Violence to those earthly values and attitudes that prevent us from truly living the Christian life. We need to agonize our way through the “narrow gate.” We need to deny ourselves so that we can “pick up our cross” and follow Jesus. We need to “lose our life “to save it.
For a people whose majority don’t even like to get shots from the doctor, that all sounds unpleasant, It certainly doesn’t sound like good news. It isn’t when the words are taken alone. But now couple the “cost” of entering the kingdom with that which God says to us today through the Prophet Isaiah. We don’t suffer alone. With words that would deeply console the Jews in Babylon during the exile, God tells them, “Fear not, I will help you. … I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand.” He promises that he will answer the prayers of those who are parched in search of water, and not just give them a few drops, but open up rivers on mountain tops.
John the Baptist knew that, yet he acknowledged himself as not even worthy of tying the sandals of Jesus Christ. He understood true humility. The type of humility that accompanies him throughout his life right through his death.
Most of us are called to be what others have termed as “dry martyrs.” We live the joy of the Gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord Jesus. We will deny those parts of life which contradict His teachings. We will learn to love our enemies, we will learn to be joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardon injuries, and always but always showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless.
We will learn to be children . . . having total trust and dependence on God; using words to build up and bring joy; finding ways to bring happiness to the “children around us”; delighting in the simple things of life; and knowing always that when we are hurt, we can go to our Father to receive healing.
Then by becoming the least in the kingdom, we will have learned how to enter with the greatest of God’s children into His kingdom.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, by your cross you have redeemed the world. Fill me with joy and confidence and make me a bold witness of your saving truth that others may know the joy and freedom of the Gospel of your kingdom of peace and righteousness.”
The more we’re able to make our whole life a commentary on the words of Jesus Christ, the more he will strengthen us to go out to seize and proclaim his kingdom and live-in accordance with the greatness we have received from our gracious, merciful, patient and greatly kind God.