Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
(Note: Today’s reflection is based on the readings for Monday of the third week of Advent, although in the United States the liturgy uses the readings of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.)
Contrary to all the rules of etiquette, in today’s Gospel Jesus answers a question with another question: “(T)he 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?’”
Through this counter-question, Jesus unmasks the hypocrisy of his interlocutors. For those who do not have the loyalty to accept the message of John the Baptist – who essentially proclaimed a truth based on the good use of the heart – how can they accept the message of Jesus who doesn’t merely say “be good,” but calls for the radicality of loving even one’s enemies?
It seems that today’s Gospel is saying that we must first make room for common sense (John the Baptist) and then we can also welcome the radicality of the Gospel (Jesus).
But how can those who have difficulty using common sense understand Jesus’ new logic? And how come we have difficulty accepting John’s message? Perhaps because, like the interlocutors in today’s Gospel, we prefer to continue protecting our beliefs and defending ourselves from anything that forces us to look at the truth of things.
Everyone in their heart of hearts knew that John spoke the truth, yet who knows how many must have rejoiced when Herod killed him. Similarly, everyone in their heart of hearts knows that the words of the Gospel can change our lives, but few of us are willing to allow ourselves to be challenged in such a radical way.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.