“The will of God is manifested to the Christian above all in the commandment to love. Jesus Christ our Lord said to His disciples in the most solemn of all His discourses that those who would love Him would keep His commandments to love one another as He has loves us.” ~Excerpted from “Life and Holiness” by Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO
Monday, December 14, 2015 ~ Third Week in the Season of Advent
Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Holy Gospel: Matthew 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.”
Meditation: From the beginning Jesus met resistance, opposition, and fierce hostility from the religious rulers as well (just the God’s prophets faced rejection in the Old Testament). The question is always why? Why did the religious leaders oppose Jesus and reject his claim to divine authority? Because their view of religion did not match with God’s word because their hearts were set on personal gain rather than truth and submission to God’s plan and design for their lives. They openly questioned Jesus to discredit his claim to be the Messiah. If Jesus says his authority is divine they will charge him with blasphemy. If he has done this on his own authority they might well arrest him as a mad zealot before he could do more damage. Notice how Jesus, seeing through their trap, poses a question to them and makes their answer a condition for his answer. Did they accept the work of John the Baptist as divine or human? If they accepted John’s work as divine, they would be compelled to accept Jesus as the Messiah. They dodged the question because they were unwilling to face the truth. They did not accept John the Baptist and they would not accept Jesus as their Messiah.
Prayer: O God, who gave the Priest Saint John an outstanding dedication to perfect self-denial and love of the Cross, grant that, by imitating him closely at all times, we may come to contemplate eternally your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Despite our all-too-human opinions, there can be no compromise with Jesus’ authority – Jesus is the Word incarnate, Jesus is Truth incarnate. The coming of God’s kingdom or reign on the earth inevitably leads to conflict – a conflict of allegiance to God’s will or my own will, God’s justice or the world’s way of playing fair, God’s standard of absolute moral truth or the relative truth to what I want to believe is good and useful to justify what I choose to do and not to do. So how do you respond to Jesus’ claim to be not only the Messiah, but the source of everlasting life and truth as well? Do you submit to the timeless truths of Jesus – his words and teachings – in order to guide your earthly life? Jesus promises that those who seek to live according to God’s truth will find true joy, freedom, and happiness both now and forever. Remember, there are a lot of people in our world who offer fleeting, empty happiness who invite us to follow them. But there is only one Lord, one Savior and one Redeemer who invites us to follow him – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah – and he offers us true joy, true peace, and true happiness, and eternal life in heaven. Why would you settle for anyone less?