By Whose Authority?

Mark 11: 27-33
Jude 17,20b-25 / Ps 63:2-6

John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!
(Mark 11:30)

By what authority do they act
To make laws that control and define
Our moral statutes that are in fact
Beyond the sphere of human design?

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to Him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’….” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Mark 11: 27-33)

Reflection

How supremely ironic that the scribes and the high priests should ask the Source of all authorities and rights on earth who gave Him the authority to rectify the abuse of their authority. If they had only seen the fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before, withered down to its roots, they probably would not have dared to ask Him: “Who gave you the authority to do these things?”

In our daily encounter with life’s trials and travails, don’t we sometimes fall into the same trap of questioning God for our misfortunes, or for other tragedies that we cannot understand? “Why did You allow this to happen, Lord?” we complain. In our emotional state we are unaware that we are actually questioning God’s authority. All authority on earth emanates from the Almighty. We are His creation. He can do with us as He pleases, and we can do nothing but submit to His Will. In the same way, we do not question the doctrines of our Church, because we believe that its authority emanates directly from God. The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, the Holy Eucharist, etc. are not of human origin; they all come from heaven.

In our brotherhood too, we have learned never to question the authority of our elders, and because of this we enjoy the blessings of love, harmony, and peace. We have also grown to value obedience; we do not argue with our leaders when we are asked to perform certain tasks, like for instance transferring to another group, or leading one, or preparing to give a talk that we do not find interesting. All of us are servants of the Lord, and must humble ourselves and submit to authority. This is part of the process of our spiritual growth.

May we all learn to accept the authority that has been handed down to those who are tasked with various responsibilities: from the humble security guards and traffic aides, to our superiors in business, government, and church hierarchy as well as the leaders of our brotherhood.

Enlighten our leaders, Lord, on the proper use of their authority to lead, that it is not how they use their power that is important, but how they can serve best in the use of their given authority. May the words of Your Son always guide us: “He who wants to be your leader must first be the servant of all” (Matthew 20:27). Amen.

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