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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: August 8, 2015
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass for Diocese of Little Rock seminarians and their parents at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. It is based on the readings for the feast of the Memorial of St. Dominic.
Today's Gospel begins with Jesus' adversaries deciding to do away with him. Jesus has been challenging the inhuman rigidity with which they were applying their teaching regarding the Sabbath. Elsewhere he says "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath," speaking with authority even though he has no recognized credentials.
This, plus the fact that God is working cures through him on the Sabbath, has begun to undermine severely their authority in the eyes of the people and so his adversaries conclude that he's a problem that will not go away unless they take steps to get rid of him. To their mind, once he is silenced things can go back to the way they were.
So Matthew invites us to see just where Jesus' authority comes from. Unlike his adversaries, Jesus' authority comes not from human credentials but rather from divine credentials, from the fact that he is the Messiah anointed by God and sent by God to save us. And to make his point, Matthew quotes Isaiah to prove that Jesus is fulfilling what God has promised in the Scriptures: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles ..." and so on.
So it is important to remember that it's not about us and if we take opposition personally, it may be because we feel our authority to be threatened, which was what Jesus' adversaries were feeling.
So Jesus' authority comes directly from God and everything that is happening — his teaching, his miracles, as well as the increasing opposition and the decision of his adversaries to plot his death — everything is unfolding according to the plan of God for our salvation, including the eventual extension of his mission to include even the Gentiles.
My question for us today is: How do we ensure that we do not fall into the same trap as Jesus' adversaries? When you leave the seminary, you will have an excellent theological education and recognized credentials. With ordination you will be given real authority in the life of the Church. Controversial issues will come up and you will draw on your education and Church teaching to answer questions about what is permitted and what is not permitted.
We see this most recently in the case of same-sex marriage: The theology is clear, what is permitted and not permitted is clear, but the pastoral response is complicated by the reality of our broken human condition. These are human beings whom we must treat with love and respect, not inhuman rigidity — after all, didn't Jesus say "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath?"
And no matter how kindly we articulate the truth, there will always be some who challenge our authority to speak on whatever issue they disagree with, especially when our answer is "No!" So it is important to remember that it's not about us and if we take opposition personally, it may be because we feel our authority to be threatened, which was what Jesus' adversaries were feeling.
But if like Jesus we deal with these issues by drawing on an authority bigger than ourselves, that is, the authority of the Lord, then such opposition will not matter because like Jesus, our authority comes not from human credentials but rather from divine credentials. It comes from the fact that our heart, mind and will is conformed to that of Jesus, the Messiah anointed by God and sent by God to save us.
We too were anointed at confirmation, and priests even more so, anointed at ordination. So shouldn't it be the case that in Jesus, God will continue to fulfill also through us what he promised so long ago through Isaiah? "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, (that's you and me) my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles ..." and so on.
Jesus' authority comes directly from God and so also through Jesus does ours. Everything that is happening even in today's world — all the good things and all the bad things, just like in Jesus' time — everything is unfolding according to the plan of God for our salvation and you and I are given an important role in that plan right here in the Diocese of Little Rock.