Tag Archives: authority

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20

This book is a ‘second law, a second look’ at the covenant between God and his people. It was written after the exile when Israel was rediscovering their roots. It is in the form of an address written as if Moses is giving a final speech to the people before they cross the Jordan into the promised land. It is also his farewell speech to his people. He had led them out of slavery and now through the desert. They will enter the Promised Land without him, but not without teaching and guidance from the Lord. This book contains long speeches and sermons that are intended to help the people reflect further on the law, God’s teaching on how they are to live. There is a constant call to reform and to live faithfully the covenant between God and God’s people.  For Christians, we are reminded that Jesus was and is the new Moses, the ultimate one in whose words God’s authority and power lived – and lives!  (Birmingham, W&W Workbook Yr B, 467-468)

We often picture Moses as Charlton Heston, someone confident and suave.  But he had to be talked into his role.  Remember he asked God to have his brother Aaron speak for him because he didn’t think his voice would carry?  Moses was one with his people, “from among your own kin”. He didn’t put himself above them.  Consider this relationship with Jesus too.  What does it mean for your life?  Is it easier to listen to someone who is one with you?  What about in your actions…do you place yourself at one with others if you are in a position of authority?

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35

In order to understand this passage, it is important to read this part in connection with the rest of the chapter and the letter.  Taken out of context, it is very easy to misunderstand Paul’s words and to misuse these words.  Paul did seem to have a bias in favor of celibacy — maybe because he himself was not married, or because he was a widow, or because he truly believed that the second coming was immanent. He was also reacting here within the culture of Corinth that seemed to hold two extremes: one of sexual promiscuity, and one of sexual asceticism. When you read the entire chapter (and letter) you can see these important ideas coming forth:

1) Paul believed that our bodies were holy and that there was virtue in praising God with our total selves. 2) Paul believed in the mutuality of men and women and that there was to be a balance of rights between husband and wife. 3) Lawful, married sexual relations in no way prohibited a person from coming to God in prayer. While celibacy might be seen as a ‘gift’ to some, it was not intended for everyone. 4) Paul held sacred the human dignity of every person – men and women. Both are equal. Both husband and wife are to ‘please’ their spouse. This suggests a view of marriage as a union of sensitive friendship and respect.  (Birmingham, W&W Wrkbk for Yr B, 468-469)  In light of all of this, what meaning do you get from this passage?

The Gospel: Mark 1: 21-28

From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B:

We see much of the ‘culture’ of the times here in this passage;

spirits, both good and bad, were part of the belief system of Jesus’ time. It was believed that spirits also had much greater power than humans. Only God had more power. To call out the name of a spirit was to have power over it. So by shouting out Jesus’ true identity, the unclean spirit was trying to overcome Jesus’ power. Jesus was also ‘just an artisan from Nazareth.’ He was acting totally out of line with his inherited status – thus he astonished the people (Some translations say spellbound!). Yet, Jesus’ words are in line with his actions. So to those who could see this truth, he regained his honor and his “fame spread everywhere.” Even the man who had been filled with “an unclean spirit” was now released and reunited with his people.  Today, we no longer see illness as ‘demonic.’  We have other ‘demons’ for Jesus to overcome. (28-29)

From Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark:

We also see in Mark’s dramatic story how God is speaking through Jesus in such a way that those who have been separated are brought back into fellowship with God and each other. In Jesus’ word, heaven actually breaks in and hell is abolished. Jesus’ words are action and life. (48-52)

From Celebration, Jan. 2006:

The word, authority, which in Greek is exousia means ex “out of” and ousia which means “being.” So Jesus taught out of his very being . . .

What do you think Mark meant when he used this word to refer to Jesus and his way of teaching.

From William Barclay:

The word, demons, is mazzikin which means those who mean harm. They were believed to be terrifyingly numerous, and were seen as an evil force between God and humans. (The Gospel According to Mark, 34)

The word ‘manna’ can be translated to ‘What is this?, which is what the people said of Jesus. Who is this person of authority?  He will be their nourishment, if they choose to be open and listen to him.  Do we?  What happens to us when we do?

From NCR Jan 16-29, 2015:  Why were the people astonished because he spoke not as the scribes?  Unlike the scribes, who called upon Scripture or upon famed rabbis or knowledgeable scholars, Jesus possessed authority that was his own, by virtue of who he was.

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: Isaiah 22: 19-23

This is from 1st Isaiah. The prophet seemed to hold this Shebna in “undisguised contempt.” Shebna at the time was sort of like a secretary of state and chief of staff to King Hezekiah. He wore the great key of the palace looped over his shoulder as a sign of his power and importance.  It seemed that he did all he could to further his own interests and power, even ordering a lavish tomb for himself on the top of a hillside.  He also seemed to like to show off and ‘hot-rod’ around in his chariots. See Isaiah 22: 15-19. He becomes here a symbol of misused power and authority. He is replaced by Eliakim whom Isaiah had hoped would be true to calling. Later, Eliakim also abused his power.  (Mary Birmingham, W&W, 487)

History is messy like that; it is full of dreams that turn to nightmares and hopes that end with dashed expectations. Too often leaders care more about self-preservation and power than about the welfare of those they serve. Jesus stands in contrast here, too. That’s why as Christians we are people of hope and faith despite the sufferings and setbacks of our very real lives.  (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

2nd Reading: Romans 11: 33-36

It was frustrating to Paul that the people he loved, including Gentile converts, could not see what was so clear to him:  that Jesus is Messiah and Savior of the world.  He tried to understand, but there was no explanation.  He finally decided to accept and trust God’s will (Birmingham, W&W, p. 488).  Consider how this might ring true in your life – a loved one doesn’t understand a deep truth that you believe in.  What do you do?  Do you trust and hand it over to God?

The Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20

It is only Matthew’s gospel that has the section on Simon as Peter, the ‘rock,’ and the giving of the keys of the kingdom along with the ‘binding and loosening.’ He also is the only one to use the word church here. He uses it again in 18: 17-18 when the binding and loosening is given to the whole community. Later theology with its profound experience of the Risen Christ is certainly reflected in this passage. Yet, it also reflects the ‘Mediterranean mind’ of Jesus’ culture which was much more oriented toward the ‘community’ than we are. It would be, for instance, very common for someone to care about what others think about them.  Jesus, like all the other humans of his time and culture, would value such feedback. And, in Jesus’ case, it might have been even more important because he did not fit any of the usual stereotypes. Jesus was not just the usual ‘person from Nazareth’ or the common artisan or stone worker’s son. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, John Pilch, 127+)  We are seeing the humanity of Jesus.

Keys were a very important sign of power and authority in the ancient world.  It was a sign of sharing in the power of the king; it enabled one to open, to provide access to the source of power, the ruler. These keys were large and cumbersome – often two feet in length. They were worn on a loop slung over the shoulder by the person who had the authority ‘to open.’ Furthermore, this passage is emphasizing certain important faith components. One, the church, the community of believers, must be rooted in the confession of Jesus as Messiah (Christ) and Son of God (Lord). What makes Peter a ‘foundation rock’ for this church is his faith relationship with Jesus.  Two, the church that we belong to is by nature a church in conflict; it is the designated opponent of evil in the world. It must be the champion of truth, goodness, justice, and right. And, despite the suffering and challenge that evil may bring, the jaws of death (the gates of Hades) will not prevail against it.  (Celebration, August, 2005)

This passage concerning Peter must have been very important to Matthew’s community. What – in the end – made Peter such a good choice? He certainly had his faults. In fact, in just a few more lines in the gospel Peter is told by Jesus that he is an obstacle and a satan (See the gospel for the following week) because he does not want him to confront evil and the suffering that will come from that. He is told by Jesus to get behind him – of course that is where all of Jesus’ followers belong. Peter is a leader who knew failure and misunderstanding. But Peter never gave up on the mercy of God that he found in Christ Jesus (John Kavanaugh, “The Word Embodied,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. & “Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

The question is also very personal – asked directly of his followers, and each of us – for Jesus must be a personal discovery. Our knowledge of Jesus cannot be second hand. It is not knowing about Jesus. It is about knowing Jesus. Jesus demands a personal response . . . Peter is the first to make this personal response. On such a response of faith in Christ God will gather his people (the word, church, means a gathering of the people of the Lord). Jesus is the cornerstone; those who come to know and trust in Jesus as the Christ will become the stones or rocks that will build a new gathering, a new temple for all times and all people. And the gates of Hades (the place of the dead) will not prevail against such a gathering of faith. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 133-146)

Authority – the focus of this week’s readings – is today about the power to enforce laws or to judge or determine what is right or true. An accepted source of expert information is also called an authority. Our English word is rooted in the Latin word auctorem or autor, which means enlarger, founder, or, more literally, one who causes to grow. Thus, it could be inferred that those on whom authority has been conferred are vested with the power and responsibility to help others to grow. This authority can either be used rightly or it can be abused.