What does it mean to teach with authority? In today’s Gospel Mark emphasizes twice that Jesus teaches with authority. “Jesus taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes…a new teaching with authority” (Mark 1:22, 27). The people contrasted Jesus’ teaching with the teaching of some of the official Jewish teachers, the scribes. In a similar way people today might contrast Jesus’ teaching with some of the official Christian teachers such as priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, and televangelist. People are able to sense if a preacher or teacher is speaking from the heart and from faith or if they are hypocrites who preach but do not practice what they preach. Pope Francis recently challenged Catholic religious leaders to be humble and people of faith.
Jesus certainly practices what He preaches. He not only preaches that God is a God of mercy and compassion but He incarnates that message by welcoming the outcast and eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus’ “new teaching is with authority” since He claims the authority to forgive sins and heal on the Sabbath even if this is a technical violation of the Sabbath Law. Jesus’ authority comes not from some rule book, ritual book, or letter of the Law but from God his Father: “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). Jesus imitates His heavenly Father in His way of humility, forgiveness, and love.
Pope Francis recently challenged the cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia to imitate Jesus’ way of humility, the true way of teaching with authority: “Our times seem either to have forgotten humility or to have relegated it to a form of moralism, emptying it of its explosive power. Yet if we had to express the entire mystery of Christmas in a word, I believe that humility is the one most helpful.” The Pope calls these religious teachers and leaders to be a “humble church one attentive to voice of the Spirit and not self-centered.” (Address to the Roman Curia, 23 December 2021).