Home » Gospel Encouragement – 17th October 2021 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Encouragement – 17th October 2021 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers,

I think in our world we often tend to have issues with ideas of authority. Sadly we know that there have been abuses of power and authority both within the church and within wider society as a whole. But I want to say that authority isn’t a dirty word. The first thing to note is that most of us have some form of authority and are also under someone else’s authority. For example, I myself and indeed all of us here have the authority and the duty to proclaim the good news of Christ, but we are also under the authority of the bishop.

Secondly when we think of authority most of us probably think of power. That is certainly what the apostles James and John appear to be thinking about in our Gospel when they approach Jesus in the Gospel to request seats on his right and left in the Kingdom of God. For James and John authority is connected with the idea of power, of Judgement and of ruling.

Today’s Gospel is a very special one for me personally because it is the one that was read at my diaconate ordination.  Like James and John, I said yes to the question ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink.’ James and John could not have known what that chalice held for them. They might have suspected but they could not have known for sure. In the same way when I said yes on the day of my ordination, I did not know for sure what lay ahead, but putting my faith and trust in God I said yes and dedicated my life to God. Accepting the path God had laid out for me, that in the words of our first reading ‘if he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.’ And I can honestly say it is a wonderful privilege to be here serving all of you.

Next Jesus tells us that ‘the greatest amongst you will be the least.’ This is an important lesson to us about authority.  If we think about a teacher, a teacher in a classroom has the authority but they are there to serve the needs of their students to teach them, help them and guide them in their education.  Or perhaps the MP Sir David Amess who was so tragically murdered yesterday, and for whom we should pray. As an MP he was clearly a man with authority, but as I was watching the news I was struck by the number of people who said he was a man of service, who did so much for his community and constituents. He was also a great defender of the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn.  Let us continue to pray for them, and that the dignity and sanctity of life may always be protected.

Turning to authority in the Church. We always need a head. St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the head of the body, the church. If we do not have a head, a figure to look up to then everything soon begins to fall apart. When I played football if there was a contentious decision and the two teams started arguing no one sorted anything out. However, when the referee made a decision, whether I agreed with it or not, that was the decision and the game continued. For us as Catholics the Pope is Christ representative on earth, the successor of Peter tasked with safeguarding and protecting the faith and serving all faithful.

For us then we should look to take up this Christ-like authority of service. Having true power, true authority does not mean being oppressive or dictatorial. No, it means serving one another, loving each other, being close to God, His Church and to each other.

It is precisely Jesus’ closeness to his people that gives him his authority because he understands their problems, pains and sins, he welcomes them, heals them, and teaches them coming close to them. Authority is a gift that comes only from God, which Jesus gives to His own.  Therefore, let us desire to have this same authority, this same closeness to God as we continue to develop an ever closer relationship with God through prayer and through the wonderful gift of sacraments.

With every blessing,

Deacon Liam (and Fr Simon)