‘He Taught Them as One Having Authority’

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Still at the beginning of our new liturgical year, we find in today’s gospel Jesus beginning his public ministry. The past two Sunday gospels have shared how Jesus called his disciples. This week, he begins his teaching career in the synagogue of Capernaum. Already, the people are astonished at the confidence with which he teaches. He knows his material and he shares it as if he has been doing it all his life – “as one having authority.”

Who is an authority? An authority is one who has power to influence. Much like a person who is authentic. Perhaps the source of Jesus’s authority was his personal authenticity. He was true to who he was and who he knew himself to be, the Holy One of God. And that truth was attractive – as the first disciples certainly knew. That truth was undeniable – as the unclean spirit in today’s gospel testifies. That truth of character demands obedience – and the unclean spirit left the man it possessed as Jesus commanded.

Where does such authority come from? We get a sense in today’s first reading as we encounter Moses speaking of his own authority and that of his successor. Authority comes directly from the word of God. God has told Moses, “I will put my words into his mouth, and he shall tell them all that I command him.” Moses’ authority comes from the Source of all authenticity and truth, it comes from God. God is the source of all authentic teaching and such teaching is true. But if Moses’ successor does not listen to or speak God’s words, if the prophet speaks something other than God’s words, or speaks the words of another, inauthentic god – he is as good as dead.

What does all this mean for us? Paul gives us a hint in today’s second reading. Anxiety is a part of life and Paul wishes all followers of Jesus to be free of anxiety. Whether married or single, Paul sets our sights on the Source of our freedom – and the Source of Jesus’s authenticity: “adherence to the Lord without distraction.” Stay focused and stay close to God, the Source of all good. God is with us. Our nearness to God is the source of our confidence and our authority. And it enables us, with all our imperfections, to know the Holy One of God whenever we see God in our neighbor and in one another.

We’re all about the Mission!

Orders of Women Religious in our church today speak a lot about mission and charism and at times it is understandable but other times it is perplexing. I believe that using the term ‘mission’ is vague because the meaning of ‘being about the mission’, or ‘being for the mission,’ whatever that may entail is broad. It is an important idea and term, but it can be overused and misused.

Currently, I would say that each person has an idea of what that means in their own life and they live this out daily as best they can. Each order also has an overarching charism that defines them as well and is tied into their mission. When discerning Religious Life you will hear both mission and charism used a lot! Then if you do join a community both terms will be an active part of your vocabulary and life.

As we move into the future I think Mission and Charism is one of the vital points each community has to be clear about and on the same page about. Our communal mission and charism helps determine who we are and how we are to be. It is more than the job you are being paid for or ‘what you do.’ These are important aspects of life, but having a clear sense of mission will help determine these and these should flow from mission.

There is a biological principle that states form follows function. I’m definitely no biologists but the other day my sisters who are more scientifically inclined than me shared this principle with me (again). I’m sure I learned it back in the day when I took biology!

“Structure without function is a corpse; function without structure is a ghost,”
(Vogel and Wainwright 1969).

Dr. Wainwright (1988), a Duke zoologist stated, “Form and function are never separate. No form exists other than as a result of function. No form exists without a function, and no function exists without a formal cause and context.” He defines “form as shape, and function as changing structure,” (p.671-672). Another way of putting or understanding function is “plants (cells) evolve with specific traits that make the most sense for the environment,” (Litvack 2015).  They do this in order to survive. Alright enough with the science lesson, but I will add architects also use this principle when designing and building.

Back to our topic of Mission. In applying this principle to our lives—Mission is Function. As Catholic Religious women we believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Our mission flows from our relationship with God and we Sisters of St. Joseph also know and believe that we are, “stimulated by the Holy Spirit,” and we act accordingly in the “following of Jesus Christ.”

Religious Life as we now know it will not exist in fifteen to twenty years. But don’t let this scare you! We are Evolving…in evolution…in the process of creating… When you begin discernment or enter formation you will hear this a lot, you will hear the data to back it up, and hear much conversation around this. You will learn the history of your community and where they’ve been. You will learn the Mission and Charism of the community. You will learn about the Vows and living a Vowed life. You will observe what Sisters are doing today and join them. You will be part of the conversations around the future of the community and you might even be singled out at times on what you think as the ‘newest and/or” youngest member.

Here’s the crux of the matter on the topic of the future of Religious Life and/or your particular Congregation: no one person has the all the exact answers and we must trust God and the Spirit as we live into this future together.

Today I offer the suggestion when discussing the future we need to hold deep conversations around our Mission and Charism. If we understand our Mission as our function than as the principle goes, form will follow and further evolve for continued existence and survival. This is how all life has survived throughout the history of the universe and how we humans are here today. Once there is a strong communal understanding of Mission then communal and individual decisions can be made flowing from this. Transformation or evolution for the future will occur.

God is with us. Let’s take our ‘form and function’ into the future as we continue to read the signs of the times and serve a world in need!

Blessings on the Journey Fellow Pilgrim! ~Sister Clare


Litvack, E. Form Follows Function in Plant Temperatures. University of Arizona Communications.  https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/form-follows-function-in-plant-temperatures

Wainwright, S. (1988). Form and Function in Organisms. American Zoologist, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1988), pp. 671-680. DOI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3883296 Accessed: 20-01-2018 20:17 UTC

12 Types of Intimacy

When I was in formation, I remember when my novice director came home from a conference and said to me, “We need to talk more about sex.”  She meant this in the way it sounds, but more so in a broader context including healthy sexuality and intimacy.  One really helpful conversation centered around different types of intimacy (I probably still have the handout somewhere).  What she gave me (and what I’ll paste below) outlined twelve different types of intimacy.  Consecrated religious can be intimate in eleven out of the twelve ways.

  1. Sexual Intimacy: Sharing passion and physical pleasuring
  2. Emotional Intimacy: Being tuned to each other’s wavelength
  3. Intellectual Intimacy: Closeness in the world of ideas
  4. Aesthetic Intimacy: Sharing experience of beauty
  5. Creative Intimacy: Sharing in acts of creating together
  6. Recreational Intimacy: Relating in experiences of fun and play
  7. Work Intimacy: Closeness of sharing common tasks
  8. Crisis Intimacy: Closeness in coping with problems and pain
  9. Conflict Intimacy: Facing and struggling with differences
  10. Commitment Intimacy: Mutually derived from common self-interest
  11. Spiritual Intimacy: Unity shared in religious expression
  12. Communication Intimacy: Mutual understanding and affirmation

*Note:  I’m not sure of the origins of this list.  It is easily found on multiple online sites.

Intimacy is important in any vocation.  It requires time and sharing and vulnerability.  Know that if you are discerning a religious vocation, intimate friendships are a necessity.  They take work.  They keep us whole.  They keep us in touch with our own life and struggles and joys as well as those of the world around us.  Religious life is not a place to hide for those who might feel uncomfortable in relationship.  To live religious life well demands that we relate deeply with a wide array of people; that we can be honest and vulnerable with ourselves and others even and especially when it is less than comfortable; that we are intentional about being intimate.  Intimacy is connection, unity, affirmation, understanding, closeness, sharing, relating.  We all need intimacy.

–S. Sarah