Saturday of the 8th Week of the Year
1st Reading. Jude 17; 20-25
Gospel: Mark 11:27-33
Honesty lets us grow
We need to be honest with others, open to correction and devoted to well-tested wisdom, or, like Jesus’ malicious questioners we will fail to recognize the offer of salvation, or fall into the trap of some early Christians, condemned in the Epistle of Jude. These followed a secret way of salvation which so emphasised the sublimity of the spirit that the body was allowed all kinds of immoral actions. Both Mark and Jude are tense with conflict about serious mistakes that would close our way to the fullness of life. Unless we recognize reality, dishonesty sets up a more formidable barrier to God’s presence with us than many of our worst sins might do. These can be forgiven by God’s infinite mercy, but only if we are honest enough to admit that we truly have sins to be forgiven. Jude deals ruggedly with this need for honest repentance, when he writes: “Correct those who are confused; the others you must rescue, snatching them from the fire.”
Jesus makes a similar demand, when some religious leaders felt that their monopoly of truth dispensed them from being honest and above board. To protect their status they had recourse to devious deception. In the early church, some people felt so spiritually elevated that they could ignore normal discipline in their lives, particularly in eating and carnal expressions of love. They were not honest enough to admit the integral unity between body and soul.
Jude attempts to point out that true wisdom has its source in “the prophetic words of the apostles,” and in “welcoming the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This wisdom is open for everyone of good will to seek and obtain. Even if it is a pure gift, God gives it freely. And as we walk this way towards true wisdom, we are gradually absorbed into the mystery beyond all others, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, or in Jude’s words, “praying in the Holy Spirit? persevering in the Father’s love, welcoming the mercy of Jesus Christ.” If we are honest, and pursue this journey with Jesus, ultimately he will answer every one of our questions.
By what authority?
Today’s gospel comes just after Jesus cleansed the temple, which was a very daring thing to do. There were people in charge of the temple and Jesus certainly had not been authorized by them to do what he did. The question the religious authorities responsible for the temple put to Jesus is very understandable, “What authority have you for acting like this? Who gave you this authority? This happened towards the end of Jesus’ public ministry. At the very beginning of his ministry, according to Mark, the ordinary people of Galilee were struck by the authority with which Jesus spoke and acted. Far from being disturbed by Jesus’ authority, as the religious leaders were, they were greatly impressed by it. They were all amazed, Mark tells us, and kept asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching, with authority.” Jesus spoke and acted with the authority of God. For those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, it was a liberating authority. We all need an authority of some sort as a reference point in life. The real issue is who or what will we take as our authority. The gospels assure is that Jesus embodies the authentic authority of God, an authority that empowers us to become fully human and fully alive. [MH]