with authority

Aug 31, 2021

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“Jesus went down to Capernaum,
a town in Galilee,
and taught them on the sabbath.
And his teaching made a deep impression on them
because he spoke with authority.”

The Gospels record two main reactions to the presence and teaching of Jesus.

Many of those who heard Jesus found his words and person to be attractive, irresistible even. It is clear that what he said resonated with something very deep inside each of them.

Others were unable to experience this attraction to Jesus. They resisted him, they left him and then they crucified him.

Recently I read an inspiring little book written by someone who is “wrestling with belief in today’s church”. In an early chapter he tells of a conversation he had some years ago with a protestant evangelical pastor of a large city church who commented that he always welcomes “ex-Catholics” to his congregation because they know an enormous amount about Jesus but have never met him. Of course the comment was made cynically and with humour, but it caused me to put down the book and now, a few days later, I am still a bit haunted by the suggestion.

It is easy for our church committees to spend all their time and energy on so-called “practical” matters. But what could be more practical, urgent and essential than falling in love with one who brings joy and purpose to human life.

If all church committees have as their prime purpose to lead parishioners to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, all their other work of maintaining buildings and managing finances takes on a life-giving and eternal purpose.

If Jesus Christ is not on our hearts and lips and in our actions in every moment life becomes exhausting and we find ourselves automatically submitting to any available noise as the authority for our lives.

In the absence of God life’s “little spooky prejudices” (to quote Thomas Merton in the opening paragraph’s of The Seven Storey Mountain) take on power as the ultimate authorities for us.

Through the 1950’s and ’60’s a new, welcome and inspiring voice appeared writing books that quickly became spiritual classics. Thomas Merton powerfully challenges us to return to confidence in God as our ultimate authority.

Merton’s authority was not the common moralistic and legalistic authority of his time, but after the model of Jesus, a real and lasting authority with the power to transform life.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you Father, for the beautiful reflection!
    May the Holy Spirit bless you and guide you forever!

    Reply
  2. THIS SPOKE TO ME AS MY HUSBAND AND I LEFT THE CATHOLIC CHUTCH FOR ELEVEN YEARS BEFORE RETURNING WE DID SO AS WE FOUND A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST AND A LOVE OF THE SCRIPTURES IN THE CHURCH WE WENT TO BUT WHAT A JOY WHEN WE RETURNED HOME !

    Reply
  3. Amen thanks Father John beautiful reflection Amen

    Reply
  4. Good words John, your relections are shorter, and more direct. Less is more

    Reply
  5. I have of late been reflecting on Jesus “in real time” I think I miss God in my life when I focus too much on God in the past or God in the future. Jesus right here with me here and now loving me and spoiling me like an indulged child engenders a response of love from me towards God and my brothers and sisters. It would be great if as church we could focus more on how blessed we are rather than on sin and the need for redemption of our own making.

    Reply
    • Spoiling me like an indulged child has really caught my attention. Have never heard this expression before, but somehow it rings true. Thank you for the thought.

      Reply
  6. Thanks John, for your reminder about Thomas Merton. I’ll try writing a letter to my grandchildren. Housework can wait.

    Reply
  7. Beautiful profound words Fr John!!
    What touched my heart today was “ if Jesus is not on our lips and in our actions in every moment life becomes exhausting and we find ourselves automatically submitting to any available noise as the authority for our lives.” It is a reminder to me to ask the Holy Spirit to give me this grace to live in this way while on this earth.

    Reply

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