December 16, 2019

Gospel MT 21:23-27 When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Reflection When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Until the coming of Jesus, the “Chief priests and elders of the people” were in charge of all matters concerning religion. They clearly felt that this startling young Galilean was a threat to their authority. It was one thing for Jesus to preach in the countryside but now He had come into the “temple area” to deliver His message of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. Because it was not yet time for Jesus to reveal himself as having been given authority by God, He answered the Chief priests and elders with a question of His own. Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” John the Baptist preached that people should repent of their sins and be baptized, for the Holy One-The Messiah, would soon be revealing Himself. People flooded into the desert and John plunged them into the Jordon River in a baptism of “repentance.” They came away feeling cleansed and ready for the arrival of God’s Chosen One. The chief priests and elders were the religious leaders of their time. It was their responsibility to distinguish between what was right and wrong in matters of God. They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Out of fear that the people would turn against them, they gave the safe answer. Instead of saying what they believed they chose the coward’s way out and replied, “We do not know.” Do I, like Jesus, have the courage (even to the “Church”) to say what I believe about the love and forgiveness of God, without fear of what others might think? Or, when challenged to proclaim my beliefs do I hang my head and reply, “I don’t know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.” “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”  Mahatma Gandhi