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JESUS FACES HIS OPPONENTS FIRMLY

Father Francis's picture
Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Ecclus. 51:12-20 & Mk 11:27-33

The first reading beautifully describes Sirach’s love affair with Wisdom. “When I was still a youth, before I went travelling in my prayers I asked outright for wisdom” (v.13). “I have been following her steps ever since my youth” (v.18). “Thanks be to her I have advanced; glory be to Him who has given me wisdom!” “I am determined to put her into practice.” “My soul has fought to possess her.” “I have stretched out my hands to heaven and bewailed my ignorance of her; I have directed my soul towards her, and in purity have found her.” Wisdom is the first and best gift of the Holy Spirit. If only we could have the same love affair with her?

Soon after Jesus had driven the money changers from the temple He came back to Jerusalem. The chief priests and scribes and the elders came to Him and confronted Him in a hostile manner. They want to know by what authority He stopped the buying and selling of things needed for sacrifice and worship on the temple premises. The implication is that Jesus needs authority from God for such actions. But Jesus will answer them only if they first answer His question.

It was an established practice among Jewish rabbis to answer one question with another, so what Jesus does is not unusual. The question of Jesus about the baptism of John makes these leaders look into the motives and sincerity of their question to Him. It forces them to look at their own lack of faith in God, which is at the root of their hostility towards His actions in the temple.

Since John proclaimed himself the humble forerunner preparing the way for the Messiah, the question about Him implies also the question of His own identity as Messiah. To answer the question of Jesus either way will reveal their duplicity and their lack of genuine faith in God. Apparently it was common knowledge that they themselves had not accepted John the Baptist as a real prophet although the people had.

When the leaders refuse to answer Him, Jesus declines to answer their question about the source of His own authority. Like all the others who see what Jesus does and hear what He teaches, they must decide Who He is for themselves. Is Jesus truly from God with God’s authority? Has He really been sent to reveal God’s power in the world? They know the answer to give Jesus but in doing so they would have to admit that His authority comes from God. Sadly, they haven’t the guts to admit the truth, and so tragically fail to follow and give their allegiance to Jesus, their Messiah.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the spirit of boldness and firmness Your Son exhibits in His dealing with His detractors. By Your Spirit give us the wisdom to enable us to stand firm in our belief in Jesus and in His saving presence in the world whenever we are challenged.

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