In today’s gospel the chief priest and elders confront Jesus with a question concerning the authority by which Jesus is teaching in the Temple precincts, the content of his teaching, and more. This is a different moment than during the Galilean ministry when people, already amazing and curious, wondered about the source of Jesus’ teaching, miracles, and the authority by which he did all these things. It is different from the moments when Jesus encounters the queries from the scribes and pharisees. Now, in the midst of what we refer to as “Holy Week,” Jesus faces the leaders who already have plans to end Jesus’ life – they are just looking for immediate cause and opportunity.
“By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Mt 21:23) Jesus realizes there is no real interest in the answers, and so asks them a similar question: “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?’” (Mt 21:24-25a) After some discussion they reply that they do not know.
Today is also the Memorial of St. Lucy, patron saint of the blind. Her name shares a root with the Latin word for light, lux. Part of the tradition handed on as regards the date in which she is memorialized is that the witness of her life, she was the bearer of light in the darkness of winter.
And so the gospel is well chosen for this day. The answer from the chief priest and elders reveal that they are religiously blind to what is going on around them. They have not understood the inbreaking of God into history and the fulfillment of salvation history playing out before them begun with John the Baptist’ call to repentance and evidenced in the ministry of Jesus. They are blind.
There is a Franciscan tradition stemming from St. Clare about gazing into the mirror of perfection. Meaning that as one gazes into the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, one gazes into the life of God with the goal of mirroring that perfection into the world as best we can. When one gazes as such, one more deeply recognizes the authority of God and so answers the question.
In knowing Jesus in Scripture and worship, may we shed the blindness that keeps us from embracing the fullness of the authority of Jesus over our lives.