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?
~ Mt 21.23-27
“Because I said so!” This cry is the last resort of exasperated parents all over the planet (present company included). When every other claim to parental authority has been shattered by a defiant child, who among us has not uttered this exclamation? Definitive and conversation-ending (we hope!), it forces the hearer to acknowledge that there is, indeed, a higher and wiser power that governs his small life.
The chief priests and elders in today’s Gospel are similarly oppositional, confronting Jesus in the very public, crowded setting of the temple to challenge the prerogatives that undergird his ministry. Being far less heavy-handed than an exasperated parent (of course), Jesus cleverly and firmly reinforces his authority, turning the tables on the questioners by questioning them (a proven technique of rabbinic debate).
It is not easy, at any age, to cede control over our lives to someone else. We want to be the ones making the decisions for ourselves; we believe that we are best-equipped to map out our journey. In our insistence on making our own plans, however, we are effectively challenging God’s governance of our lives, even though we may not intend to do so. Just as we would like our children to accept our judgment about what is best for them, God wishes us to trust in his merciful guidance, to discern and follow the path he lays out for us. Let us put ourselves in his hands today, praying, with John Henry Newman, “I can ask nothing better than this, to be in your care—not my own.”
All-wise and all-powerful LORD, Give me the humility to trust you, the patience to wait for your guidance, and the courage to follow wherever you lead. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.