How can we have the type of authority that astonished the people?
In the Gospel of today, Mark recounts the amazement that Jesus caused: “The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” And after Jesus rebuked a screeching demon, saying “Quiet! Come out of him!” … “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority.’”
This reading led Pope Francis in his homily at Mass to reflect on what gave Jesus an impression of such authority.
What type of authority does Jesus have? It is a style of the Lord, this ‘lordship’ – we could call it – with which the Lord moves, teaches, heals, listens. This lordly style – which is something that comes from within – shows us something. What does it show us? Coherence. Jesus had authority because he was coherent in what he taught and what he did, that is, in how he lived.
This coherence was what made people see him with authority, the pope said. Authority is seen in coherence and testimony.
The people contrast Jesus with the scribes, who were not coherent; Jesus exhorts the people to do what they say but not what they do.
Francis noted that the word that Jesus uses to designate this incoherence, what he called a “schizophrenia,” is “hypocrisy.”[He repeats] a “rosary” of this designation! Read chapter 23 of Matthew. He says it a lot of times: Hypocrites because of this, hypocrites because of that. Hypocrites … Jesus designates them “hypocrites.”
Hypocrisy is the way of acting of those who have responsibility over people — in this case, pastoral responsibility — but who aren’t coherent, who are not lords, who do not have authority. And the people of God are meek and tolerant. God’s people tolerate so many hypocritical pastors, so many ‘schizophrenic’ pastors who preach and don’t act, who don’t have coherence.
Nevertheless, the people of God can see the strength of grace, Francis reflected.
Referring to the First Reading, where Eli prays for Hannah, the pope said that the old priest no longer had authority, but still had the grace of anointing, and with this grace, prays for the woman so desirous of a son.
The people of God distinguish well between a person’s authority and the grace of anointing. “You go to confession with that priest, who is this and that and the other?” “For me, [in the sacrament] it’s God. Period. It’s Jesus.”
And this is the wisdom of our people, who so often tolerate so many incoherent pastors, pastors who are like the scribes, and they tolerate [ordinary] Christians – those who go to Mass every week and then live like pagans. And people say, “This is a scandal, an incoherence.” How much harm incoherent Christians do, those who don’t give testimony, and incoherent pastors, ‘schizophrenic’ pastors, those who don’t give testimony.
Thus the pope concluded the homily praying that all the baptized would have the “authority” of Christ, “which doesn’t consist in giving orders or making oneself heard, but in being coherent, in being a witness, and thus being a companion on the path of the Lord.”