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.”
This Gospel reading is one in which the religious leaders try to trap Jesus into either insignificance or blasphemy. In Jesus’s time religious authority was handed down from one generation to the next by scrupulous examination and if the candidate was found worthy, a priest or rabbi would lay hands on him in a public ceremony to transmit Godly authority to him. A practice we still use today in our ordination rights.
Jesus, however had no such ceremony so they challenge him in public. Jesus, in rabbinical fashion responds to their question with a question and inserts them in a dilemma where they themselves cannot answer his question and thus compromise their own authority.
As Jesus dared the Sanhedrin to follow him. He challenged their self-serving attitudes and their faithlessness.
So as we enter in to this third week of Advent, we too are challenged by Jesus and we need to examine ourselves to ensure that we are indeed following Christ in a faithful manner and not for our own self-importance.
Good and gracious God, give us to courage to recognize the authority of your Most Holy Word over us.
Help us to curb or selfish nature and to live as children of light, illuminating your path for all whom we encounter.
We pray in Jesus name.
Fr. Don Simon, Pastor
St. Katharine Drexel, ANCC