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Letting go of expectations
December 5th, 2016
By Father Greg Friedman, OFM

Advent is a time of expectations. Children make their lists for Santa, and we might even as adults pin our hopes on receiving a certain gift as children do, only to be disappointed. Holidays are also a time when we might expect too much from family and friends. Each Advent I tell myself it’s far better to let go of expectations and allow the heart of Christmas, the truth of Christmas, to inspire me once again. And today’s Gospel reading can help us.

Matthew tells us that John the Baptist, in prison, wants to know if Jesus is the Messiah. John, like many of his contemporaries, had high expectations of this savior who was to come. From his prison cell, John sends disciples to put the question to Jesus himself. In response, Jesus sends a report of the work he has been doing – signs of healing and power which mark the breaking in of God’s kingdom. Hopefully, this account gave John some comfort before he was killed by Herod. But then Jesus turns to the crowd to ask them what they expected when they went to hear John the Baptist preaching. In describing John, Jesus does two things. First, he puts John in the context of the messenger who prepares the way. Then, Jesus says something surprising: John was pretty great, yet the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. Now, there’s a statement to challenge our expectations.

How do you and I see ourselves and our response to Jesus in the light of this statement? And even more, how do we judge others, especially the kind of people with whom Jesus associates in Matthew’s Gospel? Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, those on the margins of society. Who, in the final analysis, meets Jesus’ expectations for greatness in the kingdom of heaven?

Transcribed from Father Friedman’s video reflection for Dec. 11, 2016, retrieved from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website at

From December 8, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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