Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
(Numbers 24:2-7.15-17a; Matthew 21:23-27)
Religious persecution sometimes proceeds not from tyrants or atheists but from co-religionists. John the Cross suffered greatly at the hands of Carmelite brethren. When he began his reform movement, called the “Discalced Carmelites,” the regular Carmelites harassed him. When his reform proved not radical enough, his discalced brothers had him silenced. Probably neither group recognized John’s genius much less his holiness. We see something similar at play in today’s gospel.
Jesus has drawn much attention since coming to Jerusalem. The chief priests and elders take notice. They come to question his authority. Jesus, however, outwits them by his question regarding John the Baptist. They will not forget their comeuppance. Indeed, they will see that he is crucified out of spite.
At different points in history social integration seemed to require all members of a community to confess the same faith. In contemporary times the Church has wisely taken another tact. Vatican II made the just claim that a person’s conscience must be respected. Our worship of Jesus as Prince of Peace compels us to appreciate other faith traditions. We should proclaim Christ as understood in our tradition. We should also endeavor to understand why others believe as they do.