10 January 2006

A new authority...

First Week OT (Tues): I Sam 1.9-20; Mark 1.21-29
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

Why would any of us think that it is a good thing to follow this Jesus? Why do we call on his name to settle disputes? Why do we think to pray in his name? Why do we give credibility to his teachings and tell others about his ministry? What is it about him that calls to mind authenticity, power, and instills in us a sense of assuredness and calm? He is a ratty carpenter. A wandering teacher of the Law, someone who roams around with a band of working-class grunts teaching what can only be described as hippyish Jewish apocalypticism and self-deluded narcissism! He casts out demons, heals the blind and lame, creates food from thin air, walks on water, and claims to be the Son of God, the Messiah promised by the Prophets. Why would any of us think to follow this guy?

Because we know what the unclean spirits know: Jesus is the Holy One of God! What we read in the Word, what we assent to in our hearts and minds, what we call upon to live holy lives in Christ is the authority of the Holy One of God. Authority is what we sense when we read and pray scripture. Authority is what reaches out and grabs us by the brains when we study the Tradition of the faith. Authority is what settles electrically into our hearts and beats along in time, giving pace to every breath we draw, every step we take—the cadence by which we are seduced into holiness, lured like fish to the nets and caught in the weightiness of his love, his mercy. “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority.’”

So, what is this authority that commands our trust? Authority is the possession of the power, the ability to create, to author, to bring out of nothing, something. Authority is the freedom to confirm, to approve, to give authenticity to. It is influence, holding sway and being decisive. Authority is the responsibility to hold accountable, to call to task, and to make right what is wrong. And for us, those of us who live in Christ, authority is the rule of the Author of Life in our hearts and minds, the giving over of control, direction to the Lord of our redemption. It is the license we freely give to God to govern our lives so that we might have the Good we long for, the Good we desperately desire.

Jesus is our authority because we recognize, acknowledge that he is who he says he is. Arguments, evidence, appeals to history and texts might push us along toward the conclusion that Jesus is who he says he is, but we are compelled finally, in the end to bow before the Spirit that moves us, the Spirit of mercy and love that drives us to the beauty of the Father, His Goodness and His Truth. Even the demons know who he is; they know what he will claim about himself, what he will proclaim to others about who he is and what he has come to do! Even those spirits lost to the cleanliness of love and mercy KNOW that Jesus is Lord, that he is the Holy One of God. Is possible that we can come to know differently?

Ours is not a faith of theological propositions, philosophical conclusions, or scientific findings. Of course, we are a church of intellectual power; but, we don’t give ourselves to methodologies, syllogisms, or experiments. We are not baptized into models of research or academic paradigms. We are baptized into Jesus Christ, into his authenticity as the Holy One of God, into his authority to write and re-write our lives in grace, into his freedom to create and re-create us in his image. He is the new teaching; he is the only authority we look to, the only source of life we will ever need.

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