(The Prelate’s Sermon, October 2)
Today on the fourth Sunday of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel reading is from Saint Mark 11:27-33. The Evangelist narrates a controversial dialogue between the chief priests, the teachers of the law, the elders, and Jesus. These local ministers question Jesus, asking Him: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replies, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism: was it from heaven, or of human origin?” The interrogators are immediately trapped by their own device, and reason among themselves: “If we say it is from heaven, then the people will ask why we do not also accept John the Baptist; but if we say that it is from the earth, then the people will reject our own position.” So, they respond, “We cannot answer.” Our Lord Jesus Christ very calmly replies to them, “Neither then will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Those who questioned our Lord thought that they were the sole authority in the land. They approached Him with a subtle question to try to entrap Him. They had no interest in hearing the Truth and were ultimately ensnared by their own false authority. I would like to share a few thoughts based upon the conversation between Jesus and the Temple ministers.
Authority is one of the most important themes in the Old and New Testaments. The delivery of the Laws through Moses to the children of Israel, then the testimony of the prophets, and finally the Teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ are all interwoven with the understanding of authority and confirmed through countless miracles.
Authority from the secular perspective denotes superiority, power, dominion, etc. The English Lord Acton observed that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Whether in an organization or in a government, those who assume positions of authority and who are placed in authority eventually take corrupt advantage for their own interest.
From the Christian perspective, the greatest authority is divine, and flows from God to His Creation. The Almighty Creator vested upon our fore-parents to have dominion over everything which has been made and created, yet that commission was not designed to abuse but to edify what it was entrusted to them (2 Cor 10:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ became the perfect role model of using the Dominion vested in Him by teaching, serving, understanding our weaknesses, forgiving, having compassion, caring, etc. After His Resurrection and before ascending into the heavens, Jesus solemnly declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). Likewise, He commissioned His Disciples with the same authority, who within the same spirit exercised it and transmitted it to their followers. Saint Paul in a humble way confesses that “through God’s mercy we have this ministry” (2 Cor 4:1). It is indeed God’ mercy that He has created us as rational beings and as children of light (1 Thess 5:5). He has empowered us, with God-given authority, to be the salt and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16) by imitating Christ, to bring the isolated out of their emotional prisons, to heal the crushed hearts, and to bring hope in all those who have lost the sight of promised eternal Land (Isa 61:1-3 and Luke 4:18-19).
Practicing authority should not be restricted within the circle and the mission of the clergy, but rather it embraces all walks of life. Whether we are invited to serve as clergy, statesmen, parents, principles-instructors, stewards, etc., we should be aware that the authority entrusted to us is the most valuable thing we should use as partners with the Creator to perpetuate peace, harmony, and productivity in this world. The power of authority is a double-edged sword: when the righteous are in authority, the people will rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people will mourn (Prov 29:2).
History is full of examples of both positive and negative users of this Divine grace. As the followers of the Authority-holder par excellence, our Lord Jesus Christ, let us take every opportunity granted to us in using authority through minor or greater responsibilities by exercising the power entrusted to us with the spirit of the Crucified and Risen Lord. The great Tempter is ready always, through subtle temptations and by creating in us a false superiority complex, to negate our authority and deviate us from our ultimate honor, from which he is deprived forever. Let us be attentive in order not to waste in childish ways this most precious gift of God and to be worthy to hear His celestial welcoming voice, “Come blessed ones of My Father, and inherit what was prepared for you since the beginning of Creation” (Matt 25:34), praising the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.