EFFECTIVE AUTHORITY COMES FROM OUR IDENTIFICATION WITH GOD AND MAN
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEB 2:5-12; MK 1:21-28 ]
In the gospel, we read that Jesus taught with authority and left a deep impression on the people. Indeed, we read that even the spirits obeyed Him. With a word of command, they came out of the possessed man. So much so, “The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.'” Where did He get such authority from that even evil spirits had to submit to Him?
Thus, we must begin by asking the difference between His authority and that of the scribes. The Jewish leaders taught with institutional authority, an authority based on study and given by man. Such authority comes from outside and is bestowed. Jesus however spoke with personal authority, an authority that comes from within Him. What then is the basis for this authority?
In the first place, after His baptism, Jesus was conscious that He was the beloved Son of the Father. The first reading tells us that “At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command, but we do see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for mankind.” Jesus knew that He was the glory of His Father, which was acknowledged by the unclean spirit as well, for it exclaimed, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.” In the responsorial psalm too, the psalmist says, “You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands. O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth! What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.”
But it is not sufficient for Jesus to be identified with God; he was equally identified with man. Again, the author of Hebrews instructs us that “As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers in the text: I shall announce your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly.” By calling us His brothers, Jesus is identified with us in our humanity. He knows our struggles, pain and brokenness.
As a consequence, only He who knows God and who knows man intimately can lead us to salvation. He who Himself has shared in our humanity and overcame sin and temptation in His life is the only One worthy of leading us in sanctification and salvation. Because He has Himself gone through the depths of hell, He could empathize with us and be our Advocate before the Father and intercede for us unceasingly at the throne of mercy. Otherwise, we can excuse ourselves or even fall into despair because we are not gods and therefore unable to surmount the struggles of daily life, especially our temptations.
In the light of today’s scripture readings, we who are baptized in Christ are called to be leaders and pointers for our brothers and sisters to Christ their Saviour. How can we be effective witnesses, teachers and leaders unless we too have the same faith in God and the same identification with our brothers and sisters in their sufferings and misery?
It therefore behooves us, first and foremost, to rediscover our true identity in Christ. We must recognize that we are truly the sons and daughters of God because Christ is our brother and we have become adopted sons and daughters in Christ, since His Spirit is given to us at our baptism. Without this conviction of our sonship in Christ, we would be hesitant in the face of evil and sin. Perhaps the reason why many of us are afraid of evil spirits is because we think they are more powerful than us. But the truth is that the power to cast out the spirits has been given to us by virtue of our baptism in Christ, provided we are convicted of our identity in Christ. Isn’t that what amazed the psalmist, that God would even give His authority to man to rule the earth? If we cannot triumph over evil in our lives, it is because we are more identified with the work of Satan than with God’s. Hence, before we can command with authority and lead with authority, we must be more and more identified with Christ.
Secondly, we must also learn to be conscious of ourselves, of our own weaknesses and failures so that we can feel more with our fellow brothers and sisters. If we are judgmental and lacking in compassion, it is because we fail to recognize that we ourselves are sinners and are in the process of growing in holiness. The first step to being a leader is therefore to be with our people. We must get to know personally those people whom we live with, work with and work for. When we get to know them as persons, and their struggles, then we will know how to help them effectively. Otherwise, we only produce theories and high sounding philosophy which are great for the mind but do not strike the heart or are relevant in their lives.
Of course, knowing our brokenness is not enough to help us to act and speak with authority unless we ourselves have submitted to Jesus and then in His power also destroy sins in our lives. In other words, we ourselves must have won the battle ourselves, if we are to inspire others. Otherwise, we who are still blind and ignorant will be no better than them. If that were the case, then we will only lead them to despair. How can we be of comfort to them when we have not been comforted? How can we lead them out of the forest when we ourselves are still lost? But if we have given ourselves to Jesus and we have experienced His saving grace, then we can share convincingly with others that Jesus saves and that whenever we work with and in Jesus, nothing is insurmountable for us.
So let us exercise the authority that the Lord has given to us, whether in leadership, in teaching or in service, but most of all, in dealing with evil in our lives. Show that we are stronger than the devil because Jesus lives in us. Demonstrate to all of humanity that Jesus is our Saviour and Leader in salvation by a life of holiness and surrender to Jesus our Lord.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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