Saturday, June 02, 2012

Jesus and the Americans

In today's Gospel a group of Americans--make that Pharisees--come to Jesus with a question. "By whose authority do you do these things?" It could also be rephrased as "Where do you get the right to do the things you do and teach the things you do?" It's a good question. In fact, faced with Jesus' words and deeds, it is a necessary question. Even now, if we do not have the answer to that question, all the religious observances in the world rest on a flimsy foundation. And yet when Jesus turns the tables on them with his own question of authority, the Pharisees show themselves proto-Americans. Instead of looking for the truth, they calculate their answer by cause and effect, and they stay there. "If we say this, he will say that; if we say the other thing, the people will react like this..." In other words, "Which answer 'works' best for us? And so they pled ignorance. "We have no idea where John the Baptist's mission came from." The question of authority is just as vital in the life of the Church in our day. It isn't enough to appeal to the Church's authority as if it were its own source. The truth behind the Church's authority to "do the things she does and teach the things she teaches" has to be discerned and recognized (and ultimately surrendered to), even though our cultural temptation might be to take a practical approach and simply go with whichever answer "works" best for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very true. We can get lazy and fall back on the church without looking to its source. I guess it works out great that today is the solemnity of the holy trinity. The basic fundamental of our faith, that God loved us into existence, out of bondage, and just as much today as ever is exactly what we need to think about, meditate and pray on.