Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Matt 21:23-27

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

Samuel Smiles said: “There are many tests by which a gentleman maybe known; but there is one that never fails, how does he exercise power over those subordinate to him?”

The enemies of Jesus, especially the elders and the chief priests, question the authority of Jesus. They ask: “By what authority are you doing these things? You know, throughout the centuries this same question has been posed by humankind in reference to Jesus. In effect they are saying, “Let us see your credentials. Do you have Doctor of Philosophy?” All of us know that He is a moral teacher, more than just a prophet, whose teachings are personally most appealing to us. This man’s actions, including his recent cleansing of the Temple, are done in his Father’s name.

They question His authority because they want not only to embarrass Him but even to jeopardize His whole mission. But Jesus turns the tables on them. With courage and wit the Lord counters with another question: “Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” The question catches them off guard because if they said: ‘From God,’ they alienate those who believe in Saint John the Baptist. If they said: ‘From man,’ they pass the sentence on themselves for having rejected John. And so they respond with the weakest of all weak answers: ‘We do not know.” Even if Jesus tells them the truth, they still not believe in Him. Just like what St John Chrysostom (347 – 407) said: “Even if He had told them, it would have profited nothing, because the darkened will cannot perceive the things that are of the light. For we ought to instruct the one who enquires; but the one who is only testing we ought to overthrow by a stroke of reasoning, and not to reveal to him the power of the mystery.”

Fr. Pabs Tagura, SVD (Bible Diary 2008) said that authority as a concept could be understood in many ways. One possesses authority if he is learned, well-informed or has specialized on a specific field of study. People will definitely listen to him if he talks about his field of expertise. Authority is also vested on someone by law through the electoral process. One could also wield authority and influence if he has, ‘guns, goons and gold.’ Mao Che Tung once said that power emanates from the barrel of the gun.

He continued to say that Jesus’ authority comes from above, for he came to fulfill the Father’s will (Phil 2:6). The authority of Jesus emanated from the inner richness and authenticity of His life as he is the perfect embodiment of the Father’s love to save all (John 3:16). This is what we call moral authority. Jesus was not a demagogue or a politician trying to win votes. He led by example. The greatest must be the servant of all and so he went on washing the feet   of His apostles. Redemptoris Missio says that the words o Jesus have power because they flow from His life. Preaching and living what he proclaimed are welded together.

The elders of the people and the chief priests are supposed to know.

See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

See  Other Homily Sources

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