Third week of Advent
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.”
RIGHT DEFENDERS: Since Jesus cleansed the temple, the Chief priests and the temple authorities were enraged with Him because of His interference with their authority. Their concern was ‘by what authority’ Jesus had done this. It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No one had the power to question the temple authorities. Despite knowing that the cleansing of the temple would invite enmity, Jesus did not hesitate. Throughout the world today, most of those in authority abuse the power vested on them, and violate the human rights. The Human Right Defenders (HRD) are persecuted and made to disappear. Jesus can be a model for the Human Right Defenders. Jesus was as innocent as a dove but at the same time shrewd for thesake of the Kingdom. Let us be intelligent and have a strong network to defend the rights of people.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to defend the rights of the marginalized.
SWITCHING GEARS TO GET ACROSS A DIFFICULT MESSAGE: It takes great courage to confront such adversaries. Jesus responds to them with skill without directly answering their questions. The chief priests responded the dumbest of replies. When the elders said we do not know, they did so after lot of thinking and discussions. But Jesus said, “Then I will not tell you”. He displayed that courage of conviction. All that he did and spoke was mandated by the father’s will. He said, “I always do what pleases my father” (Jn 8: 29). Jesus confronts a powerful section of society who hoodwinks the people, and yet want to be in their good books. Jesus shows silence is not an option nor a weak spineless submission to the attack. The lesson is: silence is equal to complicity. Being silent we let the evil win and we allow the wrong to flourish. When the orthodox and the violent behave as if they have the monopoly of truth, let’s learn to speak out, resist the perverse. May we resolve not to be in complicity with the wrong, violent and perverse.
WHERE HAVE YOU HIDDEN YOURSELF, MY BELOVED? In the gospel reading of today, the leaders of the Jews question the authority of Jesus. It is their expression of the rejection of Jesus. The saint we celebrate today, St John of the Cross, on the contrary, consistently expressed a longing for Jesus. A few lines from the deep words of St John of the Cross could act as our Advent song and our prayer: Where have You hidden Yourself, / And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved? / You have fled like the hart, /Having wounded me. / I ran after You, crying; but You were gone. In search of my Love / I will go over mountains and strands; / I will gather no flowers, / I will fear no wild beasts; / And pass by the mighty and the frontiers. Reveal Your presence, / And let the vision and Your beauty kill me, / Behold the malady / Of love is incurable / Except in Your presence and before Your face.