Monday 14 December
Memorial of St. John of the Cross
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.”
Today’s gospel reading centers on the idea of authority. The Pharisees want to know where Jesus is doing all the things he’s doing (healing the sick, absolving people’s sins, etc.) While Jesus could have easily answered them by saying, “Well, I’m God, so…” He doesn’t. Instead he asks them a question about John the Baptist, which they don’t answer, and so Jesus doesn’t answer their question.
The question of authority comes up a lot, at all ages. How many times have older siblings told younger siblings to do something because “I’m bigger than you are!”? We all like to have authority, but we definitely don’t like being told what to do.
Who is Jesus? Why can he tell us what to do?
Well, he’s God. So, since he made us, and we’re trying to live the way he wants us to, we should listen to him. Right? But let’s look at another dimension.
St. John of the Cross, whose feast day is today, calls God the “beloved” in his famous poem, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Do we love Jesus like this? Do we want to follow his commands and accept his authority because we love him? Or do we do it grudgingly, like a kid cleaning his room?
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to follow him. Sometimes we’re not in love with Jesus, and he’s not our Beloved. Or, maybe, we’ve never thought of him quite that way before.
For the rest of Advent, try to imagine Jesus as your Beloved. We follow his commands because we love him. We want to make him happy, we want that intimacy with him. His authority isn’t that of a stern ruler, but of a lover who wants our perfect happiness.
He comes because of love. Contemplate Jesus as your beloved.
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