Voice of Authority!

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4th Sunday after the Epiphany

Voice of Authority!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

        Our ship was moored in the harbor off shore of Patio Beach, Phuket, Thailand. For two weeks the entire crew was given liberty in this tropical paradise. The duty rotation allowed a sailor 3 days of R&R in the resort area.

        You might think that a sailor could not get into much trouble in only three days, but you would be surprised. You see, the area was famous for partying and nightlife excursions.

        Since the ship was moored out in the harbor, the only way to get to the town was by boats. They were called water taxis because that is exactly what they did. Every evening, around midnight, a bus was parked at the edge of town where all the sailors could be transported to the pier where the water taxis waited.

        On one of these nights, I was assigned Shore Police duty. The sailor that was teamed with me was about my size and we figured we could handle anything that we came across. Most of it was herding drunken sailors to the bus for a return trip to the ship.

        On this night we had a problem. One of our shipmates was very inebriated to the point of being immobile. Even though my partner and I were strong, we could not get a good enough hold on this drunken sailor who was 185 pounds of dead weight. It was like trying to move a big bag of water.

        As we stood wondering how we were going to get this sailor on the bus, another pair of the shore patrol came along. One of these sailors was a female who barely weighed 110 pounds. She said that she would get this sailor on the bus.

        My partner and I exchanged smirking looks of ‘Yeah, right. This ought to be interesting.’ What happened next was nearly miraculous. She walked up to the passed-out sailor, bent over him, clapped her hands once very sharply and said, “Jimmy Doyle, you get up right now and get your butt on the bus.”

        That sailor’s eyes popped open wide and he started to stand up. He moved as if a giant puppeteer was manipulating him as if his body was tied to strings. With our guidance, the sailor staggered under his own power to the bus.

        With that small woman’s voice of authority, something was triggered in the brain of that sailor to obey her commands.

        We all know the voice of authority. I can remember quite well how my mother or father would address me when I was young. My mother would use my full name when I had transgressed some rule of the household. When fighting with brother or sisters our actions immediately ceased when we heard the voice of our Father demanding us to stop.

        In both such incidents, there was no doubt who was in charge and to whom we were to listen. It was the voice of authority.

        The evangelist Mark wrote of Christ’s life focusing on the deeds of our Lord and Savior. Throughout this Gospel, we hear how the people to whom Jesus spoke all responded immediately to the authority of his teaching.

        It is true that Jesus also healed the sick, blessed the poor and dispossessed, and even raised the dead with the authority given to him by his Father in heaven. Jesus Christ not only talked the talk but he also walked the walk. When he spoke, people listened. Whether those same people who heard and witnessed his miraculous works believed or rejected his teachings is also revealed in this Gospel.

        Take for example the chief priests and teachers of the law in the temple courts of Jerusalem in chapter 11:

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” [Mark 11:28]

They had heard of and may have even seen Christ’s works and many of them had certainly heard his words, yet they could not understand that his authority came from God. Even when Jesus cast out demons, the scribes could not believe it was through the almighty power of God but instead claimed he was Satan.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” [Mark 3:22]

They absolutely rejected his voice of authority.

        We are the children of God who reject His word, His voice of authority. We run away from him through our sin. He set the boundaries of our lives with the fence of the Law. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal.

        We try to go around this fence to chase after our own desires. We hear Him calling us by our name and we ignore him. We hear his promises of reward in His kingdom if we would only turn to Him and come back. We hear Him pleading with us to turn from our sinful ways and to follow Him. Yet we still chase after what we can never catch. We think we are free when we are actually running headlong to our own condemnation.

        This is where our Father in heaven differs from our father on earth. God does not say, “Don’t make me come down there and get you!” Instead He says, “I will come down and get you. I will send my Son into the flesh of your flesh. I will give him all authority in heaven and on earth.”

        This is the Gospel, the good news. Jesus Christ became man so that he could suffer the slings and arrows of the evil one. He walked the walk of righteousness and he talked the talk of salvation. It was on a cross of wood where he gave up his life so that he could take it up again. His death was our death to sin. On the third day, His resurrection from the grave was our resurrection into a holy and righteous life eternal.

        We have not been left out in the darkness of night. Our true master and commander has sought us out, calling us by our full name that is written in the book of life. We know his voice. It is the voice of authority.

        Now we are on the true path with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are free from death. We no longer thirst or hunger for we have been given the bread of life. Through Jesus Christ, we have not only been saved but we are continually and eternally blessed by God.

        It is true that we are still sinners. We sometimes get drunk on our own perceived power and wisdom. But we are also under the promise of life after death. We have been given the Holy Spirit who leads us in a sanctified life. Through our baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit, we have been made true heirs to the kingdom of God.

God the Father commanded us to listen to His Son. His Son has this to say:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:18-20]

        Through the Holy Spirit we now have the voice of authority. It is not our voice, but the voice of Jesus Christ. By His authority, we forgive sin. By His authority, we baptize all nations. By His authority, we speak the true word of His salvation for all human kind.

        Let us pray for the power of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit to continue to lead us all to speak the truth through the love of Jesus Christ.