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September 22, 2014

Divine Power, Authentic Humility

The Upper Room Disciplines is a best-selling book of daily devotions published annually by Upper Room Books. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the first reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

 

Read Matthew 21:23-27

This confrontation occurs not just in the holy city of Jerusalem but at the epicenter of the Jews’ relationship with God, the Temple. Matthew has just recounted how in this very place the blind and lame are coming to Jesus for cures (v. 14).

Jesus has brought his mission of teaching and healing— which reveals what God’s will is on earth as it is in heaven— from the roads and lanes of the countryside into what, for his people, is the most sacred locale on the planet. Here at the center of the world brews the crisis over whether and how that world belongs to God. To the marginalized—the sick and the children crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David” (v. 15)—discernment of heavenly power at work on earth is clear. Why should the powerful men of the Temple care if that’s how those at the bottom of society see things?

When recovered from disease and illness, the people were obliged to procure the Temple services of the priests who would offer the proper sacrifices. Being healed, not just cured of body but also rectified with God and reintegrated into God-fearing society, cost money—money that the afflicted often did not have. Having “overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves” (v. 12), Jesus’ cures proclaim that God’s favor, divine grace, is utterly free. And so we find the chief priests and scribes asking Jesus about his authority. Jesus brilliantly responds on their turf and puts their rules into play with his question about John the Baptist’s reputation and authority. After all, so much power on earth really is, in the end, about reputation. The powerful men’s inability to respond to Jesus’ question exposes their blindness and humiliates their claims to divine authority.

Teach us, Lord, to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven,” such that your words resonate in our attitudes and actions. Amen.

 

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, teaches and writes on topics of systematic and liturgical theology, engages in parochial and prison ministries in Nashville, and makes occasional pastoral service trips to villages on Alaska’s Bering Seacoast. Among his numerous publications are Divine Worship and Human Healing (Liturgical Press, 2009) and Encountering Christ in the Eucharist (Paulist Press, 2012).

 
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