When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to 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, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
According to Pope Francis, the joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. But in today’s gospel the chief priests and elders meet him and show not joy but doubt. They challenge Jesus to a hearing. They summon him to defend his right and authority to teach in the temple.
Imagine the reaction of Jesus’ listeners: Is today’s lecture over? Will Jesus quietly leave by the side door? He does not. He defends himself by asking his questioners how they feel about the baptism administered by John. The question was not difficult for believers on the street. For them, John was clearly a prophet and his baptism was of heavenly origin. Case closed.
The chief priests and elders, however, were not in that group. Jesus had backed them into an awkward corner. We presume, therefore, by the end of the story that they drop the charge and allow him to continue to preach the Good News…with authority and love.
Has someone ever “cornered” me by speaking the truth? Have I been silenced … hurt … healed … freed?
—Fr. Paul Faulstich, SJ spent many years in India and is now doing pastoral ministry at Loyola University in Chicago.
O God, you invite us today to a renewed personal encounter with your Son Jesus Christ. Our Holy Father Francis reminds us that whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Help us experience how good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Amen.
—Pope Francis: The Joy of the Gospel
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