He taught as one having authority.
We certainly have a lot of ambivalence about authority. It has all too often been used to dominate others. Also, in our postmodern age we wonder, who has the right to claim anything except their own truth. We also live in an age where we have been told by some in authority that there are alternate facts. And of course, the way you tap into the public media, you receive highly biased readings of events that bolster one side over against the other side. Hence your authority has no authority for me and vice a versa.
In our time, what can we make of the claim that “He taught as one who had authority?”
It seems to me that this authority fires on several levels. On the most basic level, it must first show a unique knowledge and correspondence with our deepest sense of ourselves. We find ourselves asking, “How did you know this about me?” This voice of authority knows our situation, it speaks our language and answers our questions. There is a sense that there is no guile or manipulation, but rather a sense of compassionate wisdom that addresses us directly where we are and points us in a direction that corresponds with our deepest aspirations.
Further, there is a sense that the one who has true authority is speaking without having an axe to grind or a personal agenda. It addresses the deepest needs by taking the wisdom of personal experience and openly sharing it with us in order to help us understand ourselves and respond to the world around us.
St Paul, in I Corinthians 8:1 writes, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” So it is also true that the one with authority communicates in and through love. This authority not only knows me, but loves me and desires my best interests.
In the Church we come to the altar because we have heard one who speaks with authority. The words of scripture address our lives and our world in the deepest and most practical ways. It describes us as we are at depths we are not unaccustomed to speaking. Moreover, it comes to us as a voice and presence of love. We are not shamed or scared into being good or believing a creed. Rather we respond because we sense that our whole being is being engaged, nurtured and directed.
What we have heard in sacred scripture, we are called upon to practice in the sacred community. This community may start in the sacramental gathering of worship but is always sent into the world to become agents of love, forgiveness, healing and justice in the world.
We are engaged in a wonderful adventure of grace and renewal as we encounter the one who speaks with the authority of the Author of our existence.