Third Monday in Advent - December 16th
Today’s Gospel is from Matthew 21: 23-27 — where the authority of Jesus’ ministry comes under question by the chief priests and religious elders. The question of authority was center stage in Matthew’s narrative, in which the traditional leaders and people struggle to come to terms with Jesus’ ministry. This divine ministry of bringing sinners back to God offended those who had a vested interest in controlling the exercise of authority.
Authority is a tricky business, even in rightful manifestations of it—parental, collegial, governmental, but especially in its exercise in the Church. In the ecclesial setting, authority is properly vested in the clergy, which developed naturally since the 2nd century. But what does this authority consist of and how should it be exercised? Those are the hard questions! They are also difficult questions for us personally. Who do we allow to exercise authority in our lives? How do we exercise authority?
Advent is a time for us to reflect on our actions. When it comes to reading the Gospel concerning authority, it is all too easy for us to criticize the chief priests and religious elders and to hide behind Jesus and point a finger at them (remember — 3 fingers pointing back at ourselves!). This finger pointing does little to build up community, however, and would likely result in a haughty self-confidence in our own authority—just like the priests and administrators! Is it not wiser to place ourselves in the shoes of Jesus' adversaries, to risk being confronted by Jesus' divine authority against our own claims to human authority? Without a constant cross-examination from Jesus Himself, we are just as prone as priests and administrators to reduce Jesus' authority to human terms, placing Him on a par with ourselves, and reinforcing the very status quo Jesus seeks to transform.
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Graduate Student in Theology