From his cell in prison John the Baptist had heard stories about Jesus, and he sent some of his followers to find out if Jesus is the messiah. Are you ‘He who is to come’ or do we look for another? they asked Jesus.
Jesus had to reply in such a way that John would have no doubt about the genuineness of his messianic activity, and the message he sent back to John was about the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, the lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having good news brought to them.
He did not say a word about people praying more or going to the synagogue or making God the center of their lives: the age of the messiah, as expressed in this report, does not concern “religion” in the traditional sense of the word.
One knows that the messiah has come because a real change has taken place in society, a change that involves the liberation of those who have always been cut off from the “main branch” of society.
Jesus is the messiah because those who are blind, crippled, diseased, and poor have been liberated from the things which make them the victims of injustice.
We can turn the statement around to say that if the dregs of society do not experience liberation, then Jesus is not the messiah.But Jesus is the messiah, and so the dead have come to life: those who have been unable to ‘live’ in a society that has written them off, are now alive with hope.
The Gospel has truly been a leaven of liberty and progress in human history, even in its temporal sphere, and always proves itself a leaven of brotherhood, of unity, and of peace. Therefore, not without cause is Christ hailed by the faithful as ‘the expected of the nations, and their Savior’ (Antiphon O for Dec. 23).
Vatican II, Decree on the Missionary
Activity of the Church, section 8