Teaching with Authority

By Fr. Joseph Pelligrino

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 29, 2011

It is said that the following incident took place off of Massachusetts back in the early 50’s. It was a stormy night at sea and a large battleship saw a light in the distance. The light was directly on the ship’s course. The captain of the ship was alerted and had a radio message sent out: “Light up ahead, bear ten degrees south.” The captain received the reply, “Sir, you must bear ten degrees North.” The captain grew furious and got onto the radio himself and yelled, “I am Captain James Smith, that’s captain in the United States Navy. Whoever you are, I am ordering you to bear ten degrees south. Who are you, and what is your rank?” He heard the feeble answer, “This is Seaman First Class Howard Scott, Sir, you must bear ten degrees north.” The captain barked out, “I am on the bridge of the Battleship USS New Jersey, and I am telling you to bear ten degrees south.” Then he heard the reply, “But, Sir, I am in the Baker’s Island Light House, and you had better bear ten degrees North.”

A statement carries authority according to two aspects: who is speaking and what is being said. The captain had authority due to his rank. The seaman had authority due to what was said. Jesus had both. Jesus spoke with authority. What He said was true. He also had authority because of Who He was. He was the Son of God, the Messiah of God, and the Eternal One who became man on Christmas. He said, “Love your enemies. Be kind to one another.” On the cross he called to his Father for forgiveness for those who tortured and killed him. He himself was a kind, loving person. He spoke about God’s kingdom and lived as the ideal member of that kingdom. He had authority, and He has authority. We need to listen and follow.

He calls us to speak for Him. He gives us authority. For us to exercise this authority both our words to be true and we must live as committed Christians.

Many times our papers report religious scandals. Charismatic TV preachers, Roman Catholic bishops and priests, caught acting in the immoral ways. The message that they had been delivering from their pulpits for years was true. Many people were moved to come closer to God. Many people confronted their own demons and took steps to draw closer to Christ. But then the scandal hit the papers. The message of the preacher that had moved them was still true, but now it has lost much of its impact. The one who delivered it was not true to his own words. As a result his credibility, his authority was terribly damaged if not totally destroyed.

You can certainly see how this can happen in your home. Parents have authority due to their position in the family. God tells children to honor their mothers and fathers. That’s the Fourth Commandment. But the authority of parents is diminished or even destroyed when the parents act in ways that are not Christian. For example, all parents want their children to be kind to each other. But if their children observe Mom and Dad being nasty to each other, the children are going to learn nastiness, not kindness, as standard way of acting. When these same parents say to their children that they should be kind to each other, the children respond with their actions as though their parents no longer have authority to tell them how to behave.

That’s negative. Let’s look at the positive. Many of our seniors have spent years taking care of their sick spouses. Retirement was not what they expected. Instead of going and doing, their days were spent caring and cleaning, and organizing doctor appointments. But when someone makes a comment that he or she is such a good spouse, the caring spouse merely says, “I took vows.” And in those few words supported with a lifetime of action, that husband or wife speaks more eloquently about marriage than any priest or preacher could possibly speak. For his or her words have authority, the authority of the One who called him to the sacrament of marriage and the authority of the spouse who lives the sacrament of marriage.

Jesus spoke with authority. He was not like the scribes and pharisees. He was not two faced. He was not hypocritical. He didn’t have a dark side of his life that he kept hidden. He didn’t just speak the truth, He was the Truth Incarnate. Jesus gave orders to unclean spirits, and they obeyed him. It wasn’t the words that kicked the devil out, it was the person who spoke those words.

He didn’t call us just to do some of the things He did, He called us to be His presence for others. We are called to destroy evil in our world. We cannot do this unless we are determined to be Christlike.

Today we pray that we might be invested in the authority of Christ, an authority that flows not just from what we say, but from who we are as Christlike people.


A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 29, 2012

Authority over Demons
I’ve read many term papers in my day. Most of them are no more than a patchwork of quotes. That’s because college students are smart enough to know that they really can’t say much on their own authority–to make their case, they have to lean on the authority of others more learned than themselves.

That’s exactly how the scribes and Pharisee’s taught in Jesus’ day. “Rabbi Abraham says this. . . Rabbi Gamaliel says that . . .”

Christ taught as one having authority.  But what does that mean?
                     4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mk 1:21-28
The people were astonished at [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Both here in Mark’s Gospel (which we will read from this Sunday) and in Matthew’s Gospel at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the people are amazed at Jesus’ doctrine because he teaches as one having authority. But what does this mean? What was different about the way that Jesus taught? And, finally, how can priests today follow Christ’s example in their preaching?

The Triumph of Truth Over Power
This is a pretty common anti-Catholic and anti-Christian claim. It’s always some variation of the following: Catholicism (or Trinitarianism, or belief in Jesus’ Divinity, or whatever it is that the critic denies) won out simply because the powerful Catholic party destroyed the party holding to the true faith. Based on his other comments, the person writing this appears to be an atheist, but he could just have easily been a non-Trinitarian Evangelical, or a Mormon, or a Oneness Pentecostal, etc.

Why Did Christ Descend into Hell? The Salvation of the Old Testament Faithful
Christ was without sin and he fully paid the price of our redemption on the cross. So if Christ’s suffering was finished on the cross, why did His human soul descend into hell?

First we must confer with Saint Thomas Aquinas and other saints and doctors who divide hell (infernus) into four abodes:

Who Can be Saved?
If you are accosted by a person on the street who asks, “Are you saved?,” it’s like being asked: ” did you stop beating your wife?”

Answer either “yes” or “no,” and you’re in trouble.

In such moments, I think of Joan of Arc’s answer to Jean Beaupère, one of the prosecutors at her trial, who asked whether she thought she was in the state of grace. She replied: “If I am in the state of grace, may God keep me there; if I am not, may He put me there.”

Benedict XVI associates justice with judgment. In speaking of justice, we acknowledge injustice’s possibility. We cannot talk of either justice or injustice without talking of judgment. Justice, to recall, “cries out.” Judgment is unpopular today. It implies a standard that we do not make but to which, to be reasonable, we are to adhere.

Jesus and His Church Are One
It’s one of my favorite works of art: The Conversion of Saul by Caravaggio. There it is, meekly on display in the corner of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Saul, the raging persecutor of the followers of Jesus, literally “knocked off his high horse” by the radiance of Jesus, the “light of the world,” transformed into a passionate apostle of Christ and His new Church, whom we now venerate as St. Paul.

The Madness of Abortion
There are two abortions every minute in the United States. Maybe slightly more, maybe slightly less: The gathering of medical statistics has been corrupted by the politics of abortion, in the same way that everything abortion touches gets clouded by falsity. But call it two abortions a minute. Two abortions a minute. Two abortions a minute . . .

An unborn child has been killed, probably, while you were reading this. Another will die, almost certainly, before you’re done. We are slaughtering by the seconds, and the relentless motion of that murderous clock—tick, tock, tick, tock—can drive you mad, if you start listening to it.

Pope Benedict’s Prayer for the Protection of the Unborn Child Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Evil Talks About Tolerance Only When It’s WeakArchbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
The great French Jesuit Henri de Lubac once wrote, “Suffering is the thread from which the stuff of joy is woven. Never will the optimist know joy.”(1) Those seem like strange words, especially for Americans. We Americans take progress as an article of faith. And faith in progress demands a spirit of optimism.

But Father De Lubac knew that optimism and hope are very different creatures. In real life, bad things happen. Progress is not assured, and things that claim to be “progress” can sometimes be wicked and murderous instead. We can slip backward as a nation just as easily as we can advance. This is why optimism –and

Reading Scripture in the light of the tradition…
For those interested in reading Scripture in the light of the tradition, I want to highlight a fabulous resource that has been drawn to my attention, namely the two year patristic lectionary developed for the excellent Benedictine Pluscarden Abbey by Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies.

Divine Impatience
Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus. Martin Luther King Jr. writing from Birmingham Jail that justice cannot wait forever. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s contention, in the very face of the Gulag, that one word of truth outweighs the whole world. Wherever oppressive regimes have existed, a single individual standing up for what’s right has often changed the arc of history.

Catholics, Be Courageous!
While Catholic converts in the pro-life movement say that the Church’s consistent witness inspired them to learn more about the faith, there are cradle Catholics — including national and state political leaders — who openly challenge teachings on abortion and traditional marriage.

In Porta Fidei, his apostolic letter proclaiming the Year of Faith, to begin in October, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that secularism has weakened the moral foundations of Western culture and politics

On the Indefectibility and Infallibility of the Church
There are very few certainties in this world about anything. But one thing is for sure: The Church will prevail, the Church will be here to infallibly lead us to the end of days.

“How arrogant!” you might say. And yet, say it I did! Why? Not because of any human guarantee, but based rather on the firm promise of Jesus himself.

Getting Rid of Excess Baggage
I have been thinking a great deal about my experience at Reconciliation a few weekends ago. I felt an intense and unexplainable urge to go and confess my sins when I woke up that Saturday morning. I try to go every six weeks or so, but this was no routine visit to the Priest for me. I needed to unburden myself of the numerous venial sins I had committed since I last participated in this Sacrament. For possibly the first time in the five years since I joined the Church, I was able to see the true nature of these sins as a tremendous burden on my shoulders, as a fog that kept me from seeing the path ahead and absolutely as obstacles in my relationship with Christ. I know these observations to be true because the moment I left the confessional booth I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted, my spiritual vision was restored and I was again focused on serving the Lord.

To Love God is a Gift that is Received, not Achieved
More often than not, the average Catholic thinks of the Commandments and the Christian moral life, as well as the spiritual life as a task, or list of tasks they must accomplish out of their own flesh power, or else they will face some negative consequence. Hence the moral life is seen by many as a drudgery and is carried out with little enthusiasm. Hence many will hear that they must be less angry, more generous, less vengeful, more chaste etc., and they think rules, and rules though necessary are uninspiring.

Keepers of the Lost Ark
There are many worthy pilgrimage sites all over the world, but none can boast of anything approaching the Church of Ethiopia’s singular claim to fame: the Ark of the Covenant. Ethiopian Christians maintain that the Ark, the portable shrine holding the stone tablets of the original Ten Commandments that were written atop Mount Sinai by the Finger of God, and bearing (according to numerous Old Testament accounts) the Presence and Power of God, was brought to Ethiopia in 950 B.C. Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, is said to have taken it there, and it is now housed in a modest chapel next door to the Church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum, a city in northern Ethiopia.

Texas bishop talks to young adults about exorcism, dangers of occult
Bishop Daniel Flores of the Brownsville diocese addressed a crowd of over 100 young adults on the Church’s view of exorcism, the dangers of the occult, and God’s saving power.

“One of the reasons I chose the topic of exorcism is because I figured it was sure to draw a crowd,” he said during his opening remarks at the Nov. 21 Theology on Tap event in McAllen, Texas.

Next Church doctor is model for evangelization
Today’s world can learn a lot from St. John of Avila, according to those who have studied the life of the next Doctor of the Catholic Church.

“St. John of Avila is far from us in time, but nearby for his figure, his life, his evangelizing witness and for his teaching,” Archbishop Juan del Río Martín of Spain’s Archdiocese for Military Services told CNA.


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