Friday 28 November 2014

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In ancient times, we read of emperors and kings who claim to have a mandate or the authority from heaven to rule their subjects. Some of these emperors and kings even believed that they were actually divine, or that they were descendants of the divine (even if they believed they were somewhat divine was good enough for them), or that they had received a divine message or confirmation to support their right and privileges as a ruler. Few people questioned whether these emperors and kings were genuine in their claims, but in hindsight, we could discover that such claims are questionable.

But what do we mean when we speak of authority? When we speak about authority, we are talking about the power a person has received, usually through a voting process, though at times, such powers could have been seized with the support of the military or through some other means. Such persons would then have the power to determine the actions of another person or a group of people. Society creates laws to protect its citizen and then gives authority to certain people such as the police or in some cases the military to enforce these laws. In general, authority is intimately connected with its source and such authority is temporary and subject to review and possible change or even to be discarded when it no longer serves its purpose.

However, today's Gospel tells us of a different kind of authority. Such authority comes from God, since we believe Jesus is the Son of God. In today’s Gospel, the people were amazed because they had never experienced someone speaking with such authority. This authority would never be removed from Jesus because Jesus was intimately united to His Father, the source of the authority. Likewise, we share in the authority of the Lord if we are united to the source of this authority. God can remove this authority if we refuse to stay intimately united to him. God has entrusted us with his authority only to the extent that we allow him into our lives. This is why, in today's reading, we are warned: "The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it. But the prophet who presumes to say in my name a thing I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." In other words, we should not play play with the authority God has given us, for such authority is not meant for our personal gratification or benefit, but to do His will and to glorify His name.

Today, as we look back at our history, we are reminded of the many instances where authority has been misused or abused. We are also reminded of the many examples of proper use of authority. Have we who have been given authority, either from sources on earth, or from the divine, used such authority wisely and justly for the benefit of all and for the greater glory of God?

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