In the past weeks, I have written extensively about ecclesiastical authority emphasising how we are called to serve the flock as those occupying offices in the Church. There are various reasons we need to protect our authority jealously and avoid the abuse of authority which undermines evangelisation, the holistic (spiritual and temporal) salvation of souls, and our overall wellbeing as officeholders.
Today’s post is on the Christological reason. By Christological, I mean references to the life of Christ as a person. One can distinguish Christological reason from ecclesiological reason because the former refers to the life of Christ as a person, while the latter concerns the Church, which is an institution established by Christ.
The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the source of authority in the Church. We know the mind of Christ from his life and teachings. Hence, the best way to evaluate how we exercise ecclesiastical authority is to look up to Christ’s model.
In my article on “Peter and John: love and responsibility”, I argued that in choosing Peter as the leader of the Church, Jesus considered love as responsibility. Jesus never hid his condemnation of anyone who constituted a stumbling block to those seeking him or those who caused others to sin (Matt 18:6). We recall that Jesus was indignant when the disciples rebuked the people who brought their children to Jesus. Jesus did not stop at indignancy, he went ahead to welcome and bless the children (Matt 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-14). Of course, such public opposition and subsequent continuation of the blessing was an embarrassment to the disciples who assumed they were doing Jesus a favour by preventing people from accessing Jesus.
The authority we exercise over others as clerics and religious is that of a shepherd over the sheep. Hence, the clearest model is Jesus, the good shepherd, who cares for his sheep and is ready to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:1-11). The parable of the lost sheep confirms this. Here, Jesus teaches that we should leave the ninety-nine and go after the lost sheep. The scriptures do not tell us why the sheep got lost. Was the sheep stubborn or simply lost track of the flock because of certain (even culpable) reasons?
In the same way, the shepherd goes to defend the sheep attacked by wild animals. Did the sheep stray from the flock so much so that the predators targeted them? In all these circumstances, the primary duty of the shepherd is to protect and care for the sheep, even laying down his life for the straying sheep. This was what Jesus did.
We recall that Jesus was born under the law (Gal 4:4) and did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil them (Matt 5:17). He never abused the authority he exercised over people and avoided usurping another’s authority.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾