Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

The compromise between service and privileges

They 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.” Mk 11,27-33

In the passage from the gospel of yesterday, we pondered the episode of the curse of the fig tree, which is then dried. Intertwined with that fact, the Mark’s Gospel narrates the event of the expulsion of the merchants from the temple by Jesus: “On entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves” (Mk 11.15). The combination of the two episodes is not random: for those who can read, it means also that the temple will end up as the fig, because its frequenters did not bring the fruits which God expected from them. In the today’s gospel, as Jesus still wanders around the temple, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders who, together with the Pharisees constitute the notables of the Jewish civilization, approached him. They, referring to the expulsion of the merchants, say to him: “By what authority  do you do these things?”. This question is an interested one, because those chiefs see the jeopardizing of their position of privilege by one who breaks down all the power, because he claims that “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10.45); this thing is for them unacceptable. These are the reasons which give rise to the scene of the today’s gospel in which Jesus refuses to answer to the questions which are asked to him. Not because he could not answer, but because there cannot be dialogue between those who work to serve and those who do so only to maintain their privileges. The only meeting point could be the compromise, which for Jesus is always unacceptable. The same thing today happens to those who seek to enter into the politics and in other areas, with a true spirit of service. The political activity, almost always, is good only for those who can accept the compromise between “service” and “privileges”. We know something about it.

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