attractive authority

Jan 28, 2012

This is the kind of statement that will have already got you thinking. Let me clarify what I mean.

The reason that most of us react negatively to authority much of the time, is that we have allowed abuses of authority to become our definition of authority.

The scriptures from today’s Mass entice us back to the heart of authority, using the witness of the Old Testament prophets: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet…”

what is a prophet?

Contrary to popular definition, a prophet is not one who magically predicts future events. Instead a prophet is one who can see reality, and who is not afraid to communicate this reality, whatever the personal cost.

Firstly, a true prophet is one who knows the “joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of the people.  This human experience and insight is essential. But, alone,  it is not enough.

A true prophet also knows the reality of God.

This prophet understands that God has created us for a much bigger and better life than most of us have resigned ourselves to.  This life is not only an ultimate and eternal gift, but it is available today (albeit in foretaste), to any person who passionately persues truth.

the gift of LAW

Last Thursday’s reading from the Liturgy of the Hours is something of a ‘handbook’ for the prophet:

“For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven, so that you need to wonder, “who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to wonder, “Who will cross the seas for us and bring it back to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance…

“I set before you life or death, blessings or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obey his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists…”

Deuteronomy 30

Let’s take another Old Testament example. Remember when Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. What do you imagine the reaction of the people was?

The scripture tells us that the people were delighted. Now they had some tangible evidence that God desired to be in direct communication, conversation even, with them.

Instead of feeling lost at sea with no guidance, now, even though they were still wandering in a desert, they knew at last how to live. The rejoiced and they celebrated. They built a gold shrine to house this gift from God. (The Ark of the Covenant)

This Law, the voice of God, was no longer ‘up in heaven’ or ‘across the seas’. Now they knew that God was ‘very near’ to them. Indeed God was in the heart of their struggling pilgrim community. The observance of this Law would bring them life, because they knew anew that God was with them and that God loved them enough to speak intimately and directly to them.

an echo

Pope John Paul II communicated this same truth in his ‘Theology of the Body’ lectures.  The pope’s fundamental premise was that while the teachings of God were safeguarded and communicated in the teachings of the Church, these truths are anything but a foreign voice for the human. Instead the teachings of the Church are simply a reflection of the strongest yearnings in the depth of every human heart.

The problem is that the many ‘isms’ that bombard us in every sense (sight, sound…) – secularism, materialism, consumerism, capitalism, relativism, legalism, moralism (perhaps this list is endless), serve to anaesthetise us against the innermost voice of the human heart. Our numbness prevents us from hearing the voice of life. We settle for whatever pleasure is available and affordable. And then our feeble dose of pleasure wears off and we need more of the same.

Or, we can allow the blinkers to fall from our eyes and acknowledge that none of these passing attractions, not even all of them together in the same busy moment, can deliver the life that we seek.

When the person who earnestly seeks truth hears a true authority, they will also recognize an echo of resonance from the depth of their own heart.  

In the person of good-will such a voice does not sound with discord, but resounds (echoes) with harmony.

In one who simply grasps at whatever appears to offer a fleeting dose of delight, the voice of God’s authority will reverberate with dissonance and even with anger.

try a new perspective

This is why the teaching of Jesus was so attractive. “his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.”  Mark 1

If you are not convinced of what I am saying, you might like to test this.

Decide now that this week you will live the life of the God fully. You will have a pretty good idea of what you know to be right and wrong, good and bad. You will know too what the Church offers as truth.  And, you will also have a pretty sound interior sense of what God is nudging you away from, and towards.

This week, take all of this on board as your ‘way of life’ one hundred percent.

Add to your decision a commitment to pray regularly, perhaps a few moments often during each day, and a couple of longer periods.

If you do this, I guarantee that after a day or two, you will notice a difference in your life that delights you.  You will feel more connected with God. You will have a strong sense that you are growing beyond much of what has limited you earlier. You will also have a sense that you are on a new and  ultimate adventure.

And, like the millions around the world who have lived this life across the centuries, and today, you will feel as though you are living anew.

If you don’t believe me, try it!


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