13 December, Monday — Blind Obedience

Dec 13 – Memorial for St. Lucy, virgin, martyr

St. Lucy (c. 283) was a rich, young Christian of Greek ancestry. She was raised in a pious family, and vowed her life to Christ. Her Roman father died when she was young. Her mother, Eutychia, arranged a marriage for her. For three years, she managed to keep the marriage on hold. To change the mother’s mind about the girl’s new faith, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha, and her mother’s long haemorrhagic illness was cured. Her mother agreed with Lucy’s desire to live for God, and Lucy became known as a patron of those with maladies like her mother’s.

Her rejected pagan bridegroom, Paschasius, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily, who sentenced her to forced prostitution. But when the guards went to fetch her, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire; they went out. She prophesied against her persecutors, and was executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger. Her name is listed in the prayer “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon of the Mass.

Legend says that her eyesight was restored before her death. This, and the meaning of her name, led to her connection with eyes, the blind, eye trouble, etc.

  • Patron Saint Index

Num 24:2-7,15-17
Mt 21:23-27

‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?

We encounter people of authority in our lives on a daily basis. As a child, our parents; at work, our immediate boss; in sports, the coach of the team; in ministry, the ministry leader…you get the idea. In any organisation, we need authority figures — leaders to lead. Someone who has the power to guide and direct the action of others to obtain the right responses appropriate to the task.

However, there are different types of authority:

Genuine authority is when we trust another’s leadership and follow this individual’s guidance and direction, knowing that it will lead to the path that yields desired results.

Contrived authority on the other hand is borne out of fear. People follow this leader because they fear being punished if they go against the individual.

Both obtain results. But how do you feel about each style of authority? What does it say about the person in authority?

Not just in the secular world, but even within Church, I have sadly witnessed ‘contrived authority’. I have seen religious leaders and also ministry leaders demand unquestioned obedience to their leadership.

There is a fine line between proper and improper use of power. There are times when even the best leaders can place their needs and desires before what’s best for others. I have struggled with this blind obedience to authority (in our religious setting). I see directives given that to me, made no sense. I have witnessed decisions made and actions carried out in blind obedience, that have been detrimental to the organisation or task at hand. However, our good and obedient Catholics will go with ‘what xyz wants’. Does that then make me a disobedient Catholic? Is it wrong of me then to choose alternative ways of using my talent and time? Am I a bad sheep? Am I too self-righteous?

The bible is full of stories about misuse of power – Saul, the first King of Israel, abused his power and plotted to kill David who was chosen to be his successor. Later, when he became King, David coveted the wife of one of his top commanders, committed adultery and murdered the commander.

In today’s gospel, Jesus shows us a better example of being in authority. Being the Son of God, surely Jesus could wield strong power over these chief priests who question him. However, his leadership style is not oppressive, it didn’t put him above others without accountability. In Jesus Inc., leaders are to act like servants. His leaders first correct themselves before correcting others — (Luke 39-42). Jesus is the finest example for us. He came to serve, not to be served. He did not sacrifice his people, but sacrificed himself. That is leadership. The authority that comes from God the Father. 

And for all Christian leaders, take heed what Peter advises. He asks that we serve God not by coercion, but because we desire to, with love and care.  

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock — 1 Peter 5:2-3

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, help me to hear Your voice each day. Open my heart to receive You. Help me to recognize You everywhere I go and in everything I do. May my actions be directed by You and not by my own selfish desire. As I seek You out, may I rejoice in finding You. In Jesus most Holy Name. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving me Your Son Jesus. The perfect example of leader and servant. Thank you for watching over all your flock, for caring and loving us. May you shape me to be more like Him in all I do.

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