So what makes for authority? The capacity to look into a person’s heart and make an effective difference to his or her life. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority is recognised as superior to that of the scribes. These men had position, influence and knowledge but that didn’t give them authority. Playing on the word, I like to think of an authority as one who can author life in another. To do that an authority needs three things:
- a respect for the other,
- a belief and hope in the other’s growth,
- a knowledge of what to say or do to help the other to grow.
Did you notice that this is all about ‘the other’ not about the person in authority? We can see why Jesus says elsewhere that the one in authority is the one who serves, the one who is on the floor washing the dirt from the other’s feet. This is not serving by being busy, working hard for others, demanding respect and privileges. This is service shaped by the needs of the other and how he or she can effectively be served.
Each and every one of us is called to offer authority at times in our lives. Position has little to do with it. What is central is to offer the love of Jesus to those in need and give them hope that their lives will improve.