June 1, 2018 Author: Dr. Augustine Mulloor OCD 0 Comments

The major crisis in the society today is the crisis of leadership. The lack of leaders with integral authority is experienced in all realms of society: religious, political and social. The authority has been confused with power to that extent that the interior quality has been replaced with external qualification.  Today everyone aspires to get into authority as a means to arrive at prestigious status and to obtain selfish favours. Many in authority are not committed to render service to the community or society; instead often they are eager and insistent to receive service from others. When the persons who are in authority fail to take responsibility and intervene creatively, the community will be stunted through stagnancy, while those in authority will be flourishing at the cost of the community. Because what is to be done by those in authority, cannot be done by anybody else.  

Authority is received as a gift. It is participation in the authority of the giver and hence dependence on the giver is an integral element of the exercise of authority. Power, instead is acquired through influence, money and even violence and hence independent and tends to become autocracy. 

Authority is interior, power is exterior.

Authority is at the service of mission. Power is for self- gratification.

Authority is expressed in the sharing of self through self-transcendence. Power is manifested in self-glorification.

Authority edifies, integrates, unifies and builds up the community. Power, instead exploits, disunites and disintegrates the community.

Authority is a means to an end which is service. Power is an end that is meaningless as it demands from and imposes on others the duty of service. That is why  money, pleasure and violence can become means to power.  

When Jesus came to the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk 1, 21-28), people recognized in his healing action, the authoritative teaching. Although Jesus had not taught, having witnessed the healing action, people reacted saying, “what a teaching?” The authority of Jesus was recognized in the interiority of Jesus, in his very person.

When the sons of  Zebedee approached Jesus asking for positions on the right and on the left in his kingdom (Mk 10,20-28), Jesus said, “these are for those for whom they have been prepared”. The usage being theological passive, what is intended is that they are “given by God” to whomsoever he wants. Hence authority is a gift from God and hence is not to be acquired, grabbed or obtained through any means.

Speaking to the 10 apostles who were indignant about the sons of Zebedee,  Jesus clarified that the authority is manifested through selfless service . The maximal form of such a service is the self-offering in death: “The son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many.” (Mk 10,28).

The concrete form of service through which one dies to oneself is revealed in Jesus’ action of washing the feet of his apostles (Jn 13). Through this Jesus reversed the traditional view that those who are in authority are supposed to receive service given by those on the lower positions. Jesus revealed that  all are supposed to serve. To serve means to be committed to one’s responsibility in whatever position the person may be, with total  involvement to that extent that you attentively care for all the details leading to total self-forgetfulness and self-denial. Thus authority becomes a means to serve than an end in itself. The real service demands total being level presence in whatever one is doing.

When risen Jesus appeared to the apostles (Jn 20,19-21), he demonstrated the right hierarchical order regarding mission, Holy spirit and authority. The first is mission (“As the Father sent me, so I send you…), then Holy Spirit (“Receive the Spirit”) who is the source of energy for the mission and then the authority (“what ever you lose on earth will be….”) is at the service of the mission.  It is the reversed order placing authority on the top that confuses it with power.

Authority (“feed my sheep, feed my lambs”)  is the manifestation of effective love and not merely affective love (“Do you love me?”) and the expression of  the willingness to suffer (“follow me” on the path of suffering and cross) ( Jn 21, 15-25).

Hence in the church there is only authority and not power. If only we could dare to digest this real teaching of Jesus!

Author: Dr. Augustine Mulloor OCD