Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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“The people were astonished at his teaching for he taught they as one having authority and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:21-28) It is important to notice that it is always those who do not know Jesus who are astonished and amazed at his authority and power. Those who know Jesus expect it. Mary at the Wedding Feast of Cana simply tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” She knows that he will take care of it. Peter, in the boat said, “Lord, command me to come to you on the water.” He is confident that if Jesus commands him he will be able to do it. Martha on the death of her brother, Lazarus said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother never would have died.”

What was characteristic of Jesus is also characteristic of the Mystical Body of Jesus. It speaks with power and authority. And it is only those who do not know the Mystical Body of Jesus who are astonished and amazed. This is especially true in the U.S. Americans think that the Church is a democracy in which everything is done by polls and where the majority rules and compromise is necessary.

It is well to remember that in the U.S. there is a built-in tension between the news media and the Gospel. The Gospel is counter-cultural while the news media belongs to the culture and is directed to a worldly audience. What the media says is not untrue but often it does not communicate the whole truth, but rather distorts it. If we are aware of this fact we will save ourselves a lot of headaches and heartaches.

The content of the Church’s message is a mystery of faith, the mystery of God’s presence and redemptive work in Jesus Christ. It is to be approached in a posture of faith and reverent acceptance. The media, far from being reverent, revels in exposing what is pretentious, false and scandalous. The Catholic Church with its exalted claims is a particularly tempting target.

The message of the Church is the one and eternal Gospel. Because it is permanently valid, the Church seeks to maintain continuity with its past, and cherishes stability and shuns innovation. The media, by contrast lives off of novelty, thrives on the ephemeral and panders to the “itching ears” of its readers. It accents what is new and different thus giving the impression that the Church is in constant turmoil.

The Church seeks to promote unity and reconciliation, and minimizes discord and dissent. The news media, however, is just the opposite. It specializes in disagreement and conflict which will arouse interest and boost circulation. The Good News is hardly newsworthy. Understandably, the media tends to give the impression that the Church is divided into warring factions and that every point of dogma is hotly contested by theologians within the Church itself.

Jesus spoke with authority also because he wanted unity among his followers. They were to be of one mind and one heart, there was to be one flock, one shepherd, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Authority is the principle of unity; no organized activity is possible without authority. On the other hand, private interpretation is the principle of division.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of Jesus was that he spoke with authority. But the most outstanding characteristic of Jesus was that he was obedient. He came to do the will of his Father. His whole life can be expressed in two words, “Yes, Father.” And he practiced obedience before he exercised authority. Nine tenths of his life was spent in Nazareth where he was obedient to Joseph and Mary. And on the last night of his life he prayed, “Father, if it is possible let this chalice pass yet not my will but they will be done.”

Jesus is teaching us that authority and obedience are correlatives, they go together. They are not “in words” today. There is a general lack of obedience and respect for authority, in the family, school, government and church. And what is worse there is a failure on the part of those who have authority, to use it.

The root cause of this is pride. We all want to be independent, to be independent of social convention, civil law and the law of God. “You will be like God.” This was the first temptation and it is a temptation that is constant and prevalent today. Let us ask Jesus, who is meek and humble of heart to make our hearts like unto his.



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