I attended a Communion and Liberation gathering tonight after work at Saint Matthew the Apostle. I read Fr. Luigi Guissani’s “Christ, God’s Companionship with Man” earlier this summer. Tonight we discussed this excerpt from Who Is This Man?” on authority:
The most important factor for a people as a people, for a companionship as a companionship, is what we call “authority.”
There is a deep need for us to tear down, down to the last stone, the image we have of a “robotic” authority or leadership, almost as if it were a person, [as if] it were people closed up in a tower, directing, sending down signals, directing how things go from above.
Authority, leadership, is the exact opposite of power; there is not even a
trace, not a hint, of the word “power.” Consequently, there is a total absence 10 regarding the concept of authority in the people of God, at any level. There is a complete absence of any glint of fear: because fear goes along with power, and to free oneself from fear, you have to defiantly disregard power. What is this authority? I will give a definition. [Authority] is the place–because you, too, are a place, right? A person is a place–it is the place where that battle to affirm, the battle of the prophecy and its verification, the place where that battle and the verification that our proposal, which is Christ’s proposal, is a response to what is perceived in the heart… authority is the place where the battle to affirm, and the verification to confirm that Christ’s proposal, is true, meaning it is a response to the perception, to the needs of one’s heart (to the religious sense, which is given by the needs of one’s heart, and assesses the response placed in front of it) is clearer and simpler–so it does not breed fear–it is more peaceful. Authority is the place where the verification that compares the perception, the needs of one’s heart, and the response given in the message of Christ, is clearer and simpler, and therefore is more peaceful.
A line from Pasolini, one that I have quoted often lately, says that men are not educated, that young people are not educated: if someone educates them, it is with his being, and not with lectures.
Authority is the place where the connection between the needs of the heart and the response Christ gives is clearer, simpler, and more peaceful. [This] would suggest that authority is a way of being, not a font of discourse. Lectures are part of what makes up one’s being, but only as a reflection. To summarize, authority is a person who, when you see them, you can see how what Christ says corresponds to your heart. This is what guides a people.
Now, the second idea: the problem is not following… The problem is following, but it is not described completely or best by the word “following:” it is better described by the world “sonship.” An authority has sons and daughters. A son receives his family tree from his father. He makes it his own; he is made up of that family tree his father gives him, he is made up of his father. Therefore, he is entirely absorbed. Authority absorbs all of me. It is not a word I fear or dread or that I follow. It absorbs me. The word, “authority,” then, … the word “authority” could have as its synonym the word “paternity,” meaning generativity, generation, the communication of a genus, communicating a living family tree. That living family tree is my “I” which is overtaken and made different by this relationship.
The word “authority,” which coincides with the word “paternity,” is followed by the word “freedom.” It generates freedom. Being a son or daughter is freedom. The Gospel, in fact, says this at various points. “Tell me,” Jesus says to Peter, “is it the king’s son who pays the tribute? No, it is the servants, because what belongs to a father belongs to his son.”
Therefore, authority is true, or truly experienced as such, when it ignites my freedom, when it ignites my personal awareness and personal responsibility, my personal awareness and responsibility.
This means, as someone rightly observed, that when Jesus turned and said, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Christ’s questions moved Pe- ter from a logic of friendship–before he was a friend, an acquaintance–to a responsibility of his personal awareness, to the order of personal responsibility. It was his responsibil- ity when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God;” in that moment, the friendship he had with Christ became…it was suddenly illuminated by personal awareness and responsibility, of awareness and responsibility that expressed that awareness.
There is no relationship with a place of authority, with the person who is an authority, if you do not feel your freedom bursting forth as personal awareness and personal responsibility.
Third: if authority, then, is such a source of freedom, it becomes a place of comfort and makes the entire companionship, the entire people a place of comfort. In what sense? A place of comfort because, if I see a person in whom Christ has conquered, conquers, claims and convinces, it shows how He corresponds to the needs of the heart. If someone shows me, is proof of this to me; if in seeing a person I understand that this is happening in him, then I begin to understand that this also happens for the companionship. So then–no matter how I feel, no matter what mood I am in, whether I have taken many steps or just a few–I am filled with comfort: “Your precepts bring joy to the heart,” bring comfort, because Christ conquers.
Authority is the place it is evident that Christ conquers. What does it mean that Christ conquers? That Christ demonstrates, even in appearances, even in the realm of appearances, He demonstrates that He corresponds, He corresponds to the needs of the heart in a persuasive, a prophetic way. The same will happen for me, too. It seems impossible. For that other per- son who is an authority, it was impossible, but now it is possible; it is a reality. Christ conquers.
Authority, then, is a place of paternity where new life–the life in which Christ responds to one’s heart, [to] that for which man is made, where Christ responds to man’s heart–is more transparent, clearer and more transparent. This is true authority. This means the old woman who puts the coins in the treasury of the Temple can be an authority, even more than the head of the Pharisees.
This paternal, generative authority makes itself visible in the experience of greater freedom, personal awareness and personal responsibility, so that even if everyone went away, if everyone was out of the picture, if everyone else betrayed–as one really beautiful quote that I read at the last day of the year, the first day of the year–if everyone else betrayed, I would still say to you, “Yes!” This is personal awareness and responsibility. And because of this, authority is a place of comfort, where you see that Christ conquers. And, in this way, authority completes its true mandate, because it exalts the people, it helps you understand that the entire people, the entire companionship is the place where Christ conquers.