When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The chief priests and the elders were trying to find anything to trap Jesus because many followers were leaving them to follow Jesus. They felt like their authority was being threatened by the great preaching of Jesus and they wanted to prove that He was not who He was saying that He was – the Son of God. Of course, Jesus’ wisdom caught them in their own trap.
As I was reading about this I began to think about “authority”. It has a negative connotation in our society because we are taught to be individuals and we feel that we lose our freedom when we submit to authority. However, in actuality, we find true freedom when we submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and the Church.
What do I mean by this? Before leaving earth, Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and He said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” He handed His own authority to Peter and the Church, even the authority to forgive sins. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church for all ages and that nothing would prevail over the Church.
One morning I was listening to a doctor on the radio. He was talking about the recent Vatican document on bio-ethics called “Dignitas Personae” (The Dignity of the Person). He was outraged that the Church was trying to dictate against things like the freezing of embryos and the “day after” pill. He said, “Why should I listen to a man who has never been married…?”
I said to myself, “You don’t have to abide by this if you don’t want to…but there are consequences to every decision.” This is the teaching of the Church. Ultimately it is between each person and God to make his/her own personal decisions. But it is so foreign in our country to submit our will to the teaching authority of the Church. We want our freedom and feel that we know what is best for our lives. In fact, our country values freedom more than the truth. We value people’s ability to do whatever they want, even when it is not good for them.
This is like children who rebel against the authority of their parents. Children want their freedom and think they know what is best. We know that this doesn’t always lead to good results…
Two great virtues in the Christian life are humility and obedience. It is not easy to submit our wills to the will of another authority. This was a struggle for me when I joined the Catholic Church in 1985. I didn’t understand some of these teachings and I rebelled a little. But as I learned more about why the Church teaches what it does, I realized that it is for my own good. God loves me. God loves me through the Church and its wonderful teachings. All of the commandments and laws are there for my own good.
So as I studied these documents I began to realize the beauty of obedience. If I stay within these bounds I am set free and find true joy. Submitting to the authority of the Church actually leads us to true peace because we believe that the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church for the last 2000+ years.
Authority and obedience are not bad things. In fact they are wonderful things when they relate to God and His Church!
How do I respond to the authority of Jesus and the Church?
Do I value freedom more than the truth?
Have I studied the Church’s teachings to find out why the Church teaches what it does?
Have a blessed day!