A NEW TEACHING WITH AUTHORITY
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time(B)
January 29, 2012
The internet explosion has seen a rise in the number of “authors” who write continuously in blogsites, personal web sites, chat rooms and a plethora of networking sites. Digital publishing has gone literally to new heights, and millions and millions of self-styled writers (authors) dish out daily almost like a diarrhea of words that somehow are designed to connect, to communicate, and to help change the culture that is already in rapid and constant flux.
I, too, have joined the bandwagon (sort of, with my limited digital skills) since 2007. I love to write. I love to put down my thoughts and reflections in digital ink (given the fact that I hardly now ever put anything down literally in “black and white” as my handwriting is getting worse faster than my age!)
Many of us, including me, can be called “authors” in our own right. But only the most conceited among us can claim what that word etymologically, and actually stands for fully. Whilst it is true that all can write anything and thus, merit the name “author,” it is not true that all so-called “authors” do so with “authority.”
The word “author” comes from the Latin “auctor” which, in turn, comes from the verb “augeo” which means to grow, to increase – the same root word of the English “augment” – to add. But I ought not bore you with a side lesson in Latin.
I speak of authority in the sense of making others grow because the liturgical readings today, would have us reflect on the prophethood of Moses, and the fulfillment of that prefiguration seen in Moses, in the person of Jesus Christ, who, the gospel says, speaks with authority.
I have a personal collection of about 5,000 books, mostly in my lines of specialization, Moral Theology and Counseling/Therapy. My collection has been whittled down to a minimum. A great deal of them have been given away to libraries or to others, for one simple reason. There are authors and there are authors. And like Francis Bacon once said, some authors are meant only to be tasted, but some are meant to be digested. Some write simply as authors. But some authors write not just with passion, but with authority.
Let us hear from Moses. He prophesied – that is, he spoke in God’s name … on God’s authority … that “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up from among your own kin; to him shall you listen.”
The promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Today’s gospel passage (Mk 1:21-28) shows us as much … and more! Let us get it straight from the horse’s mouth … “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
Never in my life as now have I seen so much words in print, in broadcast, in cyberspace, in my Kindle, in my iPad, laptop, and desktop. In our times, we see much more, including the bombastic perorations of lawyers and lawmakers acting as judges and prosecutors all rolled into one in the ongoing impeachment trials in the Philippine senate. The wonder of the television has brought the almost farcical official and legal event to the farthest corners of the Philippines – and the world – in more than 120 countries where Filipinos are in diaspora for economic reasons!
Today, 4th Sunday in ordinary time, we are well advised to pause and think about who the real authority is. And it has nothing to do with brilliant and ponderous argumentation. It has nothing to do with credentials and titles galore, that not even formal gowns and robes can even hope to equal. For authority, at bottom, does not rest on one’s credentials, but on who has sent the prophet in the first place, along with what the prophet has been sent to do in the final analysis.
Moses was sent from God. He fulfilled the task marvelously well. His words were not just simply prophetic. They were words designed to make the people of Israel grow, increase, and become what God has called them to be. They were words, designed, not to hit home, but to hit the core of who we are as willed by God. They were words not meant to impress, but words meant to express the best of God’s dream for His people, for the world, and for humanity as a whole.
Jesus, the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy of old, spoke with authority. And authority here, like I said, begins with the idea of making others grow, increase, and march towards the fullness of what and who they are called to be. Jesus, spoke and did marvelous deeds. He healed the sick. He drove out demons. He called people to fullness of life. He made them grow. He taught and acted with the goal in mind of empowering people, and take responsibility for themselves.
In Jesus’ case, no word was wasted … no whisper was blurred … no expression was spoiled. He spoke with authority, if sparingly! He spoke the truth that set people free. He talked about the good news that led to the glorious liberty of the children of God!
I write even as I often speak. Like I said, I did join the bandwagon to a certain extent. But there is one thing I do as priest and preacher that does not come solely from my own initiative, and solely from my own selfish desire to express – and even, at times perhaps – merely impress. I come as ordained minister, as one with the right and duty to preach the gospel in season and out of season. I have no authority of my own. I claim no basis to any authority at my own bidding. I can only claim to speak (or write), in His name, in Christ’s name, on the Church’ s behalf, with credentials solely from Him who spoke with authority, for the life of the world!
I am a poor messenger. I am a weak intermediary and bringer of the good news that is not my own, but Christ’s. I beg for indulgence from my readers and hearers. God is not done with me yet. And like St. Paul, I would like to remind you all: “I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord.”
At the end of the day, this is all I ask of you … listen to the Lord and the Lord who sends preachers and apostles to the world. Only He has a new teaching with authority! Listen to Him!