15 December 2008. Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent
Numbers 24, 2-17; Psalm 25, 4-9; Matthew 21, 23-27
The debate about Jesus’ authority in the Gospel today is part of a series of controversies that would put Jesus to death. In this debate, the chief priests and elders are the opponents. Eventually, they would be instrumental to Jesus’ death. They questioned the authority of Jesus’ entering the city, cleansing the temple, healing the sick and teaching. The rebuttal of Jesus in the form of a question reverted the roles: now the chief priests and elders became defensive. Jesus said that they would tell them from whose authority He was doing all these things, if they would tell Him, on whose authority John the Baptist was baptizing. The Gospel said that if the chief priests would answer, “from God” then it was tantamount in saying that they were stupid and lacked spiritual insight. If they would say, “purely human” they crowd would be angry at them because they believed John was a prophet. So, Jesus did not give His answer because the chief priest also did not know the answer to His question. But the point is simple to those who are reading this part of the Gospel: we all know that the source is God.
But why was this placed as the Gospel in the 3rd Week of Advent? When we wait for something to come to our lives, and nothing is clear on the horizon, we usually doubt many things. While we wait for the result of a work application or risk to pursue a dream, we often question whether we have made the right decision: Families migrating to another country; individuals discerning to enter religious life; or students who just decided to shift course. For many of us in this phase in our lives, the readings therefore remind us about two things:
First, it tells us to believe that whatever we have embarked on, the prime mover or source is God himself. If we are searching for His will for us, the very source that moves us is God. He is the Spirit that enables us to find Him. Thus, no matter what doubts arise from within ourselves or from other people in the course of finding the will of God for us, we are assured that God will help us discover His will.
In the first reading, Balaam speaks of an unsolicited word that announces Israel’s ultimate victory, it promises the future rise of a nation, the star or the staff of Israel. God promises Israel that within its ranks will rise a great leader in the line of David. And for all of us who know that this promise has been fulfilled in Jesus, then we know that God keeps His promises. In other words, we too have to hold on to God’s promise: that when we have done everything to follow God’s will, eventually He will make it clear.
Second, it tells us to surrender. In the course of waiting, we do what we can. When we put up a show or a school play, we could have sold out the tickets, practiced our parts well, and promoted our activities, but there are things not within our control. For example, in the minutes before the show, you are still waiting for people to show up. That is not within our hands. And thus, there is a part for God. Surrender requires action as well as inaction --- all we can do is to wait and pray and trust. This is I believe the teaching of God. In the end, we depend on God. In our waiting, we actively prepare and trust at the same time.
While on our life’s pilgrimage, we pray that we continually hope that God will accompany us and lead us to the place we were meant to be.