“What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

John 2:18

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

John 2:13-25

After Jesus has his little run-in in the temple, the authorities ask him what authority he has to cleanse the temple.

Come to think of it; this is a valid question to ask. It is a valid question to ask of ourselves too, particularly if we ever find ourselves in a ‘temple situation’. And we must be brutally honest with ourselves.

By what authority do we do anything? There is a range of answers here, some good – and some very bad. The worst is a kind of appeal to power – ‘Because I can’. This is closely linked to a desire for power, more often than not, a desire to take power for the sake of personal benefit: “It’s my turn to eat at the trough!”

Then there is authority based on tradition: it’s always been done that way! Which is a mistaken understanding of tradition. Tradition is, at best, a mixture of continuity and change. A tradition can sometimes become outdated – losing its original purpose or even proven wrong. Holding to such traditions is not heroic. It is blindness. Some ‘traditions’ are invented; by repetition, they become more ancient than they are – particularly if we conveniently forget their origins.

Far better authority is that which is based on principles and knowledge. One sees a bad situation, analyses what the problems are, embraces core values or principles, examines better possibilities and acts, rooted in values and not for oneself or a sectoral interest, but for the greater good for the most persons affected. 

Ask yourself: when faced with claims to blind authority, do I conform or resist? Am I blinded by the cult of celebrity or personality? How do I understand tradition? Why do I do so? If I resist, do I imagine something new – and on what grounds do I claim my authority? 

Loving God,

Give us Christ’s strength to discern legitimate from illegitimate authority;

May the Spirit guide our responses in a way that gives us the strength of sound authority.

Amen.

 
Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
See more from Anthony Egan SJ
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Click to subscribe to:

Subscribe!