Authority, the word itself comes across very powerfully. Authority is the theme that we are exploring in today’s gospel. We read two accounts where different people have some very serious authority issues. Firstly, we see the two sons challenge their father’s authority and then we read about how the chief priests and elders take issue with Jesus’ authority
But what about us, yes you and me, what authority issues do we have. We all have authority issues but I am not talking about authority issues in the way we usually understand them.
Today’s question on the surface appears quite obvious. Do we recognize and submit to the authority of Jesus as the father.
The difficulty begins when we confuse divine authority with human authority. We misunderstand it to be based on credentials and expertise, years of education, successes and accomplishments, status and reputation, or the position held in relationship to another. We see authority as something which comes from outside a person and that it is given them by their circumstances. It is an authority which they think they are entitled to have. We often react to these people in a negative manner thinking and even saying
“Who do you think you are?” “What gives you the right to tell me what to do?”, “You’re not the boss of me!” We really don’t like someone else teaching us, correcting us, or telling us what to do and neither did the chief priests in today’s passage “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” they say to Jesus and we see it very clearly in the refusal of the two sons to go to the vineyard.
There is, however, another authority issue imbedded in today’s gospel. That issue relates directly to us it is our failure and sometimes our refusal to recognize, claim, and exercise the authority within us; to actually go to the vineyard.
What we need to be able to see and understand is that every single day God authorizes us to enter and sends us into his vineyard, to act in this world with his authority and on his behalf through the gifts he has bestowed upon each and every one of us.
True authority always comes from within. It is a God-given quality. That’s what the chief priests and elders failed to understand. They chose to exchange their God-given authority for human power.
Sometimes we do too, don’t we. That’s what’s happening in much of our world today.
Power struggles always emerge where there is a lack of authority. Look at our political system. Look at the wars throughout the world. Look at the conflicts in your own relationships. Those issues are always about power, they are never about authority. Our leaders exercise power but very few exercise authority. When we exercise power we look to our own interests but when we exercise authority we look to the interests of others.