Authentic authority gives life even to those who err | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

In a homily at a Mass for President Ferdinand Marcos, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, reflected on authority using the Gospel about the centurion who interceded with Christ to heal his servant. The priest’s message was simple and straightforward: Authority must give life to those it is exercised over.


Today’s readings remind us of the same point. Authentic authority gives life even to those who err.


The reading from the Book of Wisdom describes the gracious plan of God, “[forming the human being] to be imperishable, the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” The Psalm that follows speaks of the continued grace after the fall, “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”


Paul then rounds this up: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”


This is the authority of God who was consistent in his graciousness and love for us; a love that did not impose his will, no matter how gracious and benevolent, but allowed us the freedom to choose.


Authority gives life. Authority is never an imposition for compliance. Rather it empowers with the freedom it gives us to make choices. This enables us to love, which is the greatest freedom and power of humanity,


There can be no life greater than one lived with and in the freedom to choose, the core of our ability to love. On the Cross and in the Resurrection, this freedom of choice and the power of love overcame sin and death.


In today’s Gospel, we have another person of authority: Jairus, a synagogue official, who intercedes for his daughter. He acknowledges Christ’s power to heal and goes to him “[falls] at his feet and [pleads] earnestly with him…”


We see here what is often overlooked in the exercise of authority: humility. Jairus humbles himself out of love for his daughter. He does not demand nor does he feel entitled. He prostrates himself at Christ’s feet and pleads earnestly. This act of humility gives life to his daughter.


Persons of authentic authority are ready to humble themselves for the sake of those they lead and serve. It is a humility that goes as far as offering their life as a ransom for others, as Christ did on the Cross.


Christ’s compassion


The second quality of authentic authority we see in Christ is compassion. Note how he immediately, without hesitation, goes with Jairus to heal his daughter and how, despite the crowds pressing in on him, he senses the woman’s deep longing and desire to be healed..


“‘Who has touched my clothes?’ …And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.’”


Christ’s compassion does not only heal the woman of her physical ailment, but gives her the freedom from fear and the freedom to be truthful. She receives the great grace of the confirmation of her faith and the gift of peace.


Christ telling her “your faith has saved you” is the affirmation of how human freedom and choice will save us. She chose to trust Christ. She chose to believe that by touching his clothes she would be healed.


This is the power of trust, of putting our faith in God’s authority over us; trusting that it is an authority that gives life because it is an authority based on  humility and compassion.


These reflections are more important now, if not urgent, as we go through a crisis of authority. Regardless of political affiliations, we should reflect on the presence or absence of authentic authority in our society, our institutions, our communities and our leaders.


For over a decade now, I have been praying that God gives us, as he has promised, leaders after his own heart and spirit. “I shall give you shepherds after my own heart.” (Jeremiah 3: 15)


I used to pray this for our leaders in government and civil society. Now I pray for this even more fervently for our leaders in government, civil society and the Church.


Come, Lord, and rescue us (pastores dabo vobis). Give us shepherds as you have promised—shepherds after your own heart—humble and compassionate, filled with authentic authority that gives the freedom to choose, and gives life offered in love and service. —CONTRIBUTED






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