Lectio Divina: Mark 11:27-33
Lord, Father of goodness and mercy, You have sent Your Son Jesus from heaven to reveal to us the authority and the sweetness of Your love. Send us Your Holy Spirit as He descended upon Christ at the baptism in the Jordan River.
The heavens open with Your voice of salvation: "You are my Son, my beloved." May our hearts not close, but in full confidence, may we welcome Your light and the embrace of the Father, now and forever. Amen.
Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him and said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John's baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me." They discussed this among themselves and said, "If we say, 'Of heavenly origin,' he will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'Of human origin'?"– they feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. So they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know." Then Jesus said to them, "Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things."
* "By what authority?" The word "authority" is central to this short passage and contains the secret of the faith journey and spiritual growth that we can attain if we let ourselves be guided by the Word, in meditation on this Gospel. The provocative question addressed to Jesus by the scribes and chief priests makes us understand how much distance there is between Him and them and why there can be no answer. For the priests and scribes "authority" is "power," "strength,” "dominion,” "capable of enforcing laws and judging." But for Jesus, “authority” is another thing. In Hebrew, this word “authority” is from a root of the word that also means "similar to." In fact, Jesus makes it clear in the place where He was walking (v. 27), and that would lead us to understand that “authority” is similarity with the Father, the relationship of love with Him, as between Father and Son. It is no coincidence that He immediately points to the baptism of John.
* "The baptism of John ...." Jesus leads us now clearly to the starting point, the source, where we really find ourselves in the encounter with God on the banks of the River Jordan where He was baptized. He also prepared our place, because like Him, we go down into the water and allow ourselves to be marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Let us reach out, gather, and visit with these words: "You are my Son, the beloved" (Mk 11). Jesus tells us that there is no other authority, or other greatness or riches than this.
* "From heaven or from human origin?" Do we want to be with God or with men, to follow God or men, or do we want to enter into the light of the opened heavens (Mark 1:10) or remain in the darkness of our loneliness?
* "Answer me." It's a beautiful phrase from Jesus, repeated forcefully twice (vv. 29 and 30). He calls for a clear choice, a clear decision, sincere, authentic, and profound. The verb "answer" in Greek means to express the attitude of an ability to distinguish and to separate things well. The Lord wants to invite us to enter into the deepest part of ourselves, to let His words enter and so, in this strong relationship with Him, learn more and more to make the important decisions of our lives and throughout our days.
But there is something more to this word, so simple and so beautiful. The Hebrew root expresses at the same time response as well as misery, poverty, grief, humility. That is, there can be no real answer, without humility, without listening. Jesus is asking the priests and scribes, and us, to enter into this dimension of life, this attitude of the soul: to be humble before Him and others, recognizing our poverty, our need for Him, because only this may be the real answer to His questions.
* They argued among themselves.” Another important verb that helps us to understand a little more about our inner world. This discussion is in fact a "talk through" as we sense from a literal translation of the Greek word used by Mark. These people in this passage are broken inside, are scarred by an injury, are not all in one piece in front of Jesus while talking to each other, bringing together a number of reasons and considerations instead of entering into a relationship and a dialogue with the Father which was inaugurated with the baptism of Jesus. They remain outside and at a distance, as the son of the parable who refuses to join in the feast of love (cf. Lk 15:28). They also do not believe in the Word of God, once again repeated: "You are my Son, my beloved, in You I am well pleased" (Mk 1:11) and continue to seek and desire the strength of “authority” and power rather than the weakness of love.
4. Questions for Reflection
* The Lord teaches me His authority, even in my life, not domination, oppression or force, but love, and the ability to be alike, to be near. I would like to accept this authority of Jesus in my life. I would truly enter into this relationship of resemblance with Him. Am I ready to engage in this choice? Am I determined to follow this through? Can I do this in all aspects of my life? What is my next step to get there?
* Maybe, approaching this Gospel, I did not expect to come back to the episode of Baptism and the experience so fundamental and the source of the relationship with God the Father. Instead, once again, the Lord wanted to reveal His love so immense, that He does not shirk any effort, any obstacles just to reach me. Is my heart, right now, before Him? Can I hear the voice of the Father speak to me and call me "son,” saying my name? Can I accept this statement of love? Do I trust Him, believe Him, and give myself to Him? Do I understand that this involves change and action from me, and does not stop with words and feelings?
* I cannot reflect on this meditation without giving my answer. Jesus asks me specifically, that "answer me" is also addressed to me today. I learned that there can be no answer without a real hearing and listening that can only come from true humility. Do I want to take these steps or just want to continue to respond with my own convictions, my old ways of thinking and feeling, from my conceit and self-sufficiency? What exactly do I need to change within me and around me to answer the way I am invited to?
* One last thing. Looking inside my heart, do I feel divided, as an enemy of Jesus? Is there any wound in me that will not allow me to be a whole Christian, or a friend of Christ, or His disciple? What is there in my life that is broken, that separates me from Him?
5. Final Prayer
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The statutes of the LORD are true, all of them just;
More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb.