Dec 5, 2020

“He summoned his twelve disciples,
and gave them authority…
Matthew 9

My earliest memories are of life in the small North Otago town of Otematata. My dad was a mechanic in the town garage which serviced the community formed by the workers on the upper Waitaki (River) hydro scheme.

Through the 1960’s the people of Otematata laboured to harness the natural power of the river to “bring power to all New Zealand” in the lyrics of the then-popular country-music group “Plainsmen”‘s  Ballad of the Waitaki. 

In earlier reflections I have made the link between the power of the river becoming electric power for the homes and workplaces of people throughout the country, and the encounter with Christ in baptism (which for me happened in the small Otematata church). Baptism gives the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit (CCC1266).

That’s another way of saying that Baptism enables us to fully become who we were created to be.

The power given by Jesus to his disciples is authority, not an authority to dominate but a capacity to live abundantly, free from the compulsive motivations and behaviours that too often control us. It is this way of living that is attractive to those who seek abundant life.

We experience power every day. Think of the power of nature in the weather and other natural events.

There are times when even the best of us misuse power.  This is why we need to individually and collectively embrace paths to healing, Te Houhanga Rongo, not as a one-off process, but as a way of living on earth in relationship with Jesus Christ. On this journey we begin to walk alongside each other soon aware that the power we have together is much more attractive and effective than our isolated and unhealthy need to be powerful.

It’s easy to point the finger at others noticing their misuse and abuse of power and it is right that we notice and courageously speak and act to correct and heal these behaviours and environments.

But the place where I have the greatest power is with myself.

I am not powerful because I have this job, this education, this money or this status. The move from survival to life (ie from religion to faith) comes when I acknowledge that left to myself I am powerless. As the Step One Prayer (of AA) encourages us to pray: “Dear Lord, I admit that I am powerless…  I admit that my life is unmanageable when I try to control it. Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness…”

When I have come to ground, when I am brought to my knees – perhaps by unwelcome circumstances, I am ready to pray the heart-felt prayer of the powerless and only then do I have capacity for true friendship with Jesus Christ and with others.

Only the one who lives in this divine relationship is living with full-power and authority.

You might like to:

  • note how have you exercised your God-given authority wisely and well over the past 24 hours. How have you misused this power?
  • Print a copy of this inspiring Christmas poster for your home or workplace.
  • Take a moment to pray for those whose initials appear below. You are welcome to continue to send initials of those who need prayer. (newest initials appear first)


  1. Thanks john. Power and authority seem to be partners like knowledge and wisdom. We can build knowledge easily but how we use it requires wisdom. So to power is easy to hold but less easy to use well. Perhaps that is why despite such power the disciples and we remain such fallible beings. Our understanding of power is best shown in how we choose to and not to use it and that must ultimately be guided by prayerful faith and love

  2. Amen

  3. Thanks John. A banquet of inspiring thoughts and links today. The ballad and accompanying video is a blast from the past. Today we never think about the source which enables so much of our daily lives. Grounding. But then the gift of the 2020 Christmas poster which connects it all. That is a keeper!

  4. Wow thats a lot to contemplate, but also uplifting, grounding and making me so aware of my fallability.
    Indeed food for thought for days to come.
    Thank you so much Fr John.

  5. The thoughts on this reflection are very real for our everyday lives. We all have times in our life when we feel powerless, but if we hand ourselves over to God, he uses that situation to bring us closer to him and know his love for us. Could we please pray fo mth and mc.

    • Building on an earlier reflection, and your comments, I have now learnt that when we are powerless we have the most to offer! Thank you.

  6. My take:

    Although we do not physically see God, we know He is real & has the power to do incredible things. Most likely a much better word to use than real. If we see a broken power line, cable or light socket, we don’t know if it’s alive or dead, but if we touch the broken cable or put our finger in a light socket & find ourselves flung across the road / paddock or room, we know it’s alive. In many circumstances people haven’t been able to let go of the power line. Bit like people in authority & don’t like to let go of the power they have over other people.

    We know God is very real & waiting for us to respond.

  7. We turn the light switch on,
    And see with our eyes.
    GOD’ switches on the light
    To our hearts, so as to
    See HIM” may we never lose
    Our sight that lights our
    soul,and heart.
    That view, of light I had not thought of,
    Thankyou Fr John,
    Very much,

  8. Hi Father John,

    The idea you speak of can be termed as Extreme Ownership. We don’t control what situations we are put it, but rather our responses to them. Brilliant maxim to operate by, and it really lets in the Grace of the Lord.

    What would be the best place to get a hard copy of the Catechism in New Zealand?

    Many thanks.


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