Pope at Mass: Pastor’s authority comes from closeness to God and people
By Robin Gomes
Emotion, closeness and consistency are what characterize the authority of Jesus the pastor. Pope Francis made the point in his homily at Mass, Tuesday morning, in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, where he reflected on Mark’s Gospel where Jesus teaches with authority in the synagogue of Capernaum and drives an unclean spirit out of a man.
Authority comes from closeness to God and man
The Pope explained that that the newness of Christ lies precisely in the “gift of authority” that he received from the Father. The Scribes and the doctors of the law, who also "told the truth", did not “reach the heart” like Jesus did. They taught "from the chair and were not interested in people", but when Jesus teaches he “causes astonishment and moves the heart".
What "gives authority" to Jesus, the Pope explained, is precisely his closeness to the people, because he understands their problems pains and sins, he welcomes, heals, and teaches them coming close to them.
What grants authority to a pastor or awakens authority in him, given by the Father, the Pope said, is closeness - closeness to God in prayer. A pastor who does not pray, who does not seek God, he said, cannot be close to the people. And a pastor detached from the people cannot bring his message to them. This double closeness is what the anointing of the pastor consists in, because moved by God’s gift of prayer, the pastor in turn can be moved by the sins, the problems and the diseases of the people.
Pastor’s double life
The Pope further explained that the Scribes had lost the ability to be moved because they were neither close to the people nor to God. When one loses this closeness, the Pope said, the pastor ends up “in incoherent life.”
In this regard, the Pope said, Jesus tells the people to do as they do, because they speak the truth, but not what they do. Jesus points to double life, the Pope said, lamenting it is bad to see pastors with double life, who are a wound to the Church.
These sick pastors who have lost authority, carry on with double life, but Jesus is stern with them. He calls them “whitened sepulchers” – beautiful in doctrine on the outside but rotting within. This is the end of a pastor who is neither close to God in prayer nor close to the people in compassion.
Hannah and Eli
Pope Francis compared the two figures in the first reading – Hannah who prays to the Lord for a son, and the old priest Eli who was weak and had lost his closeness to God and to the people, and considered Hanna a drunkard. When Hannah explained to Eli that she was praying in her heart pouring out her pain and anguish, moving her lips, the priest was able to get close to that heart and told her to go in peace. The Pope said Eli realized he had mistaken and blessed and prophesied out of his heart, and Hannah gave birth to Samuel.
Never too late
Addressing pastors who are detached from God and from the people the Pope told them not to lose hope. He said, it was enough for Eli to look at Hannah, approach and listen to her and awaken the authority to bless and prophesy, and accordingly a son was born to her.
Authority, the Pope explained is a gift that comes only from God, which Jesus gives to His own. Authority in speaking, he said, always comes from one’s closeness to God and to the people. Authority is coherence, not double life. And if a pastor loses his authority, he should not lose hope, as there is always time to come close and reawaken one’s authority and prophecy.