Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Authority
The question of authority touches every human life. For many, the power to command is the ultimate goal in life - to be # 1 - oftentimes unmindful of the fact that "a little power corrupts a little; total power corrupts entirely". Christ was a man of authority, but His ideas of how authority should be exercised differed greatly from normal standards. Today's reading touch on this subject of authority.

Isaiah 53:10-11 So much of Isaiah's writing deal with the image of a Messiah who would lead His people through service to them. The Messiah would be a 'suffering servant'; Jesus represents the perfect image of that style of leadership.

Hebrews 4: 14-16 The small community of Jewish converts were discouraged and stagnant wondering whether they had made the right decision to become Christians. The unknown author of the letter to this community reminds them that Christ, too, suffered temptation and discouragement but persevered in His mission.

Mark 10:35-45 The type of leadership Christ expected from His disciples was not to be compared with standard models of leadership. Any authority that they would exercise would be because of the service that they rendered.

Point 1: One would not be revealing any state secret by saying that at all levels of our community, there is a crisis of authority. The legislative, the executive, the judicial branches of government at all levels, business, labour, education and the churches all have suffered serious declines in confidence. Within the family, attitudes to parental authority also have changed dramatically. There are many reasons for this. At governmental levels, at times, it is because of the venality of those entrusted with power - "snouts in the trough" image, Swiss bank a/cs, excessive remuneration and retirement provisions; also the 'rorting' - abuse of travel entitlements, padded expense accounts, phone cards and so on.

Point 2: But, probably more than any other factor, and this would be true of the family and the church, it is the arbitrary use of authority that has brought it into disrepute. The "do as I say, not as I do" attitude has given rise to many of the challenges experienced by authority in today's society. There was a time, and not so long ago, when authority took obedience for granted; an instruction was given and it was obeyed. Not any longer! Now people, from the young to the not so young, want to know why! They want to discuss, argue, disagree, even to say 'No'! We find this spirit of challenge at all levels, and parents, police, teachers, politicians are all learning, in some instances, the hard way, that people can be led, but they will not be driven. The well known axiom comes to mind - "If I don't want to you can't make me; but you can always make me want to!"

Conclusion: One would have to be rather obtuse not to see that this is the model of leadership that Christ proposes for those who would be His followers - Lead by example. Lead from in front. Recognise that respect for authority can no longer be demanded; it must be earned. One of the many titles given to the Pope down through the centuries is " Servant of the Servants of God" It was formulated by Pope Gregory 1, whose great compassion and concern for the people of Rome, earned him the title of Pope Gregory the Great, one of three Popes to be so remembered. The other two, Pope Leo the Great and Pope Nicholas the Great. No doubt in his use of the title, Servant of the Servants,‚  he would have had in mind the image projected by Isaiah and by Christ - the suffering servant of Yahweh. John and James wanted to be able to lord it over all and sundry including their fellow apostles. Jesus makes it clear that among His followers there simply was not going to be that type of authority. It is a lesson that has not been completely learned within and outside the Church. It is worthwhile for each of us to look at the manner in which he or she exercises the authority entrusted to them.

Scriptural reference:[ Mat 7:29] for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.