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Authority Comes from ‘Coherence and Testimony’

Pope Francis’ Homily At Casa Santa Marta

Beware of “incoherent” Christians and “schizophrenic” pastors.

That was the warning Pope Francis sounded in his January 14, 2020, homily during Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. He based his remarks on the day’s gospel reading, Mark 1 21-28:

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

The source of authority

As the Gospel says and the Pope reminds the congregation, Jesus taught with authority. Yet, unlike the scribes who have official authority, Jesus’ authority comes from elsewhere.

While the scribes had authority due to their position, their teaching and testimony were inconsistent. Jesus, on the other hand, taught with “inner authority” and that made him more credible.

The Pope said that the word that Jesus uses to describe this inconsistency and schizophrenia is “hypocrisy”. Several times, in Chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites”. The Pope said that “hypocrisy is the way of acting of those who have responsibility over the people, hence pastoral responsibility, but are not consistent. They are not lords and do not have authority, but the people of God are meek and tolerate many hypocritical and schizophrenic pastors who are not consistent, who say one thing and don’t do it themselves.”

Jesus’ style

“What is the authority that Jesus has?” Francis asked. His answer: “It is that style of the Lord … with which the Lord moved, taught, healed, listened.”

For him, indeed, it is a stately style that comes from within and makes the “coherence” visible. Jesus, he described, “had authority because it was consistent between what he taught and what he did, how he lived. That coherence is what gives the expression of a person who has authority: ‘He has authority, he has authority because he is coherent’, that is, he gives testimony”

About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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