Jesus Spoke With Authority

In today’s Gospel from Luke, we hear that the people who heard Jesus teach in Capernaum “were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority.” Later in the passage, after Jesus heals someone suffering from the spirit of an unclean demon, the people were amazed that Jesus commanded the spirit “with authority and power.”

What did it mean that Jesus spoke “with authority”? He wasn’t “in charge” in a formal sense. He didn’t have any official “authority” in the sense in which think of the word, that is, in terms of someone having a position of authority.

As used in the passage, the word “authority,” means something different – and much more important – than simply having a position of authority. Rather, I think what the Gospel writers were trying to convey was that there was an authenticity and integrity to Jesus. His power and authority came, not from any position, but from the fact that He spoke and acted out of a truth written on his heart.

We are all called to live our lives as Christians with the same integrity and authenticity as Jesus did….called to know the truth written in our hearts and to live out of that truth at all times. That is not always easy for us to do, but that is the model of Christian living Jesus left for us.

Prayer Rooted in Life

Several years ago I read a wonderful book by Peter van Breemen, S.J., titled As Bread that is Broken, which had been recommended to me by my then Spiritual Director. I recently came across another book by van Breeman, this one titled Called by Name. I’m slowly making my way through it, since it is one of those books you really want to savor and pray with.

Speaking of prayer, one of the points van Breemen makes is that “authentic prayer is very realistic and has everything to do with the actual situation of our daily life.”

Prayer is not separate from our whole lives. If we pray with our whole self, our prayer encompasses what is going on in our lives. Van Breemen writes

True prayer is very personal – that is to say, it encompasses my whole self. A joy, a grief, or a worry should not be kept out of my prayer. Tue, the superficialities of life can become a distraction which thwarts contact with God’s presence, but anything that eats my heart out should be presented to God. The very fact that it means so much to me implies that in one way or another God has something to do with it, something to say about it. The constraint of trying to blot out all distractions could very well suffocate prayer. To pray does not mean to ignore the things that are real and to see things that are different; it does mean to see the real things in a different way.

If we truly desire relationship with God – and relationship that is authentic rather than superficial, we have to be willing to be honest with God. To put on the table everything that is going on with us. What we are experiencing. What we are feeling – our fears, our grief, our worry. We can’t have authentic relationship if we are hiding things from God, trying to be on our best behavior in our conversations with him.

Be real with God. It is not worth being any other way.

Authenticity

I’m reading a very good book titled, A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience, by John Neafsey. (Since the fall semester started last week, it is taking me longer to read than I like.) I just read his description of what it means to live an authentic life.

Neafsey suggests that that an important issue relevent to the call to authenticity relates to the “tension between following the example of others and discovering our own unique path.” In talking about the importance of discovering our own unique path to holiness, he quotes Jung about what it means to imitate Christ. Jung writes:

Are we to understand the “imitation of Christ” in the sense that we should copy his life…or in the deeper sense that we are to live our own proper lives as truly as he lived his in all its implications? It is no easy matter to live a life that is modeled on Christ’s, but it is unspeakably harder to live one’s own life as truly as Christ lived his.”

Our task then is more complicated than that “WWJD” bracelets might have one think. We are called to discover who we truly are, to search for the true self that can grow very hidden over time.

Merton, who wrote much about the distinction between the true self and the false self, said simply, “For me, to be a saint is to be myself.” Or, in the words of Rabbi Zusya, in an old Jewish story told by Martin Buber, “In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ Instead, I shall be asked: ‘Why were you not Zusya?'”

Update: My friend John adds to Mertona and Buber the quote from Basho: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.”