According to Pope Francis, the joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. But in today’s gospel the chief priests and elders meet him and show not joy but doubt. They challenge Jesus to a hearing. They summon him to defend his right and authority to teach in the temple.

Imagine the reaction of Jesus’ listeners: Is today’s lecture over? Will Jesus quietly leave by the side door? He does not. He defends himself by asking his questioners how they feel about the baptism administered by John. The question was not difficult for believers on the street. For them, John was clearly a prophet and his baptism was of heavenly origin. Case closed.

The chief priests and elders, however, were not in that group. Jesus had backed them into an awkward corner. We presume, therefore, by the end of the story that they drop the charge and allow him to continue to preach the Good News…with authority and love.

Has someone ever “cornered” me by speaking the truth? Have I been silenced … hurt … healed … freed?

—Fr. Paul Faulstich, SJ spent many years in India and is now doing pastoral ministry at Loyola University in Chicago.