Daily Reflection
November 12th, 2003
Barbara Dilly
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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The Memorial of St. Josephat
Wisdom 6:2-11
Psalm 82:3-4, 6-7
Luke 17:11-19

Each semester, students in my introductory anthropology class learn about the relationship between social systems and the power of authority.  The smaller the society, the more limited the power of leaders.  Leaders in small societies lead more by example and cooperation than by force, as is the case with kings over larger scale societies.   The power of force in a large scale society like a nation-state can be the precepts of law or it can be violence.  Students reflect on what this means in the world today.  Why do some leaders use violence to impose their wills?  Why do some leaders show great wisdom in seeking to further justice through cooperation with the authority of laws?  All of us who are students of contemporary times will ask what role religion plays in the definition and use of authority.

The first reading reminds us that those who have power over large scale societies are under a rigorous scrutiny to recognize that their authority comes from God and their power of force in the law.  Leaders are to be instructed in the holy precepts of God in order to make just decisions.  The Psalmist reminds us that leaders are called to bring justice to the poor, the afflicted, the lowly, the fatherless, and the destitute.

What does this have to do with Jesus and his travels through the many diverse cultural regions surrounding Jerusalem?  First of all, Jesus was recognized by the poor, the afflicted, lowly, the fatherless, and the destitute in the area as one who had the power to heal.  His reputation for identifying with the poor and their problems was widespread.  But the Gospel story today reveals that not all of the people recognized that Jesus’ authority over sickness and death was given to him by the Lord.  Only one, in fact, recognized the source of Jesus’ power.  And this person was not of the same culture as Jesus. 

As I reflect on these lessons, I think of how important it is that we identify leaders whose source of power is in the authority of God’s wisdom, regardless of their cultural background.  Jesus’ authority goes beyond that of a geographic region or an ethnic group.  It extends beyond the boundaries of time and space.  Jesus’ authority is based on the will of God.  Just as the Samaritan did not feel threatened in giving thanks to God for the healing act of a stranger, so should we open our hearts to the possibility of being healed by persons of authority who may be culturally different from us.  We should look for the authority in leaders to do justice that comes from God, not from the authority of force. 


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