I begin with a phenomenon. Have you noticed these days at traffic lights that motorcyclists will disregard the red light and proceed to cross it when they see no oncoming traffic? At that moment, we might just shake our heads and lament the breakdown in law and order.  But, apart from lawlessness, why would a motorcyclist jump the red light? Take note that in general, laws are enacted for order in society. So, we might just “jump the red light” when it is erected in the middle of nowhere, for example, in a paddy field. As we say, laws are meant for Man, that is, Sabbath is made for Man and not Man for Sabbath. But, take note that jumping the red light along Jalan Gasing into the Federal Highway is not an instance that Sabbath is made for Man.
Then, what reason could we adduce for the blatant disregard for laws? It arises from a mistaken notion of what authority is. A breakdown in society’s structures will take place when we confuse power with authority. Authority is a moral force. It is even captivating as we read in Lk 4:32, “His teaching made a deep impression on them because He spoke with authority”. Thus, the proper exercise of power will ultimately uplift and enhance people’s lives.
Power, unlike authority, could be an expression of naked aggression. Libya, under Gaddafi, was a good example. His power was basically authoritarian and it burdens people with fear. This was the criticism of Christ against the Pharisees and the scribes. They loaded unto others the burdens which they themselves did not want to carry.
Whenever an authority is morally bankrupt, it often has to resort to aggressive power to rule. When that happens, the exercise of power, the discharge of duty is achieved through fear. For example, whenever the religious police knock on our door, we cower in fear and sadly, our country is governed mostly through the exercise of power. Many of us are compliant not because we consent to be governed but because we are afraid of the state’s aggression.
In general, the extent of our descent into lawlessness is the measure of how we have mistaken power as authority. What has brought about this confusion?
In a particular liturgical celebration elsewhere, the 9-day novena crowd was big and the Holy Communion was brought out in a Tiffin carrier.  The merit of using a Tiffin carrier is not my concern here. Why? It was an issue of practicality because there were simply not enough ciboria for use to distribute Holy Communion. But, practicality has implications. Today, we seem to engage the world from a purely practical point of view; deemed necessary for survival. But, we forget that it does not take much to slide from being practical to being functional. When decisions are based on the criterion of practicality alone, we become functional. It is efficient and you might ask what is wrong with that.
Now, imagine a priest who is functional. It is good because he can accomplish a lot. But, if he is only functional, then, he will need space for his personal life. Space does not denote the rest that a priest needs. Christ needed rest and He was said to have escaped into the hills to pray and presumably to rest. What I mean by space is the separation or dichotomy between who a priest is and what he does. He has to create a division between his public and private life. This division between who a priest is and what he does has implication for the exercise of authority and power. 
We often use the words authority and power interchangeable. They are connected but they have different meanings. Authority speaks of the right to exercise power and it is the source of one’s power, whereas, power refers to actualisation of authority. In other words, authority is ontological because it refers to whom a person is. Power, on the other hand, is functional because refers to what a person does.
Authority flows from who we are. And who are we? We are made in the image and likeness of God. The more we resemble that image,  the more authoritative we will be. Chfrist acted the way He did because He was perfectly the Son of God. Furthermore, authority is not only ontological. It is also derived, as Christ derived His by virtue of being Son; the Pharisees and scribes theirs by virtue of being spokesmen of God. Likewise, Christian authority is God-given as pointed out in both the 1st and 2nd readings. St Paul referred to his authority of acting and speaking in the name of God and the priests of Israel were criticised for their failure to listen to source of their authority who is God Himself.
From this perspective, Catholic priests are called “fathers” because they exercise their authority in the name of God the Father and not because they have power. With regard to authority, we instinctively give our consent to people who behave in an authoritative way and not in an authoritarian manner. As mentioned earlier, authority is captivating because it is persuasive whereas power is intoxicating because it can corrupt the person who has it as it oppresses those who have to bear with it. Look at the Pope. He is powerless but he is authoritative as young Catholics have noted at the recent World Youth Day.
Christ was not against the exercise of authority. In fact, He Himself said, “Do what they tell you and listen to what they say”. He was not against calling anyone father, master or teacher. He stood for credibility and against the abuse of power. Perhaps, we can better grasp that the crisis the Church faces today is a crisis of authority. It is a crisis of authority not only because priests have exerted undue power. Primarily, it is a crisis of authority because priests have become mere functionaries. When we function, we naturally turn to techniques (like the technique of how to be a better priest or a better father or mother or manager). We focus on how-how and capabilities. We are performers or we are personalities forgetting who we really are: in persona Christi.
The issue is not calling priests fathers. It is more fundamental. In our success-oriented and achievement obsessed society, we have come to define ourselves by what we can do rather than allow our identity to determine our behaviour. An analogy is a husband. He may function as husband by being protective and supportive financially. Just because he does the things necessary does not mean he a husband. Instead, he is husband and that is why he does all these things. Identity determines behaviour.
The crisis of authority reveals a deeper crisis of identity and not of function. A devastating effect of this crisis for the Church has been the decimation of religious brothers and sisters. As we define ourselves narrowly by what we do, brothers are defined by what they cannot do. They are not priests. Sisters are no better. Many sister congregations are named after Mary because she is the model of attentiveness to Christ. Therefore, sisters are primary called to this vocation before all else they are capable of undertaking. Forgetting who they are, they have removed their habits to try to blend in with lay people.
The Gospel today challenges all priests and most of all, bishops to rediscover the ontological foundation of their authority and prophetically exercise it through their magisterium, their governance and their worship. Their authority is best manifested through the triple ministry to teach, to shepherd and to sanctify. What is required is not a rehabilitation of authority as it is a rehabilitation of the exercise of it. And it requires that priests begin to live who they are and not just function according to what they are called to do.
 In general, there is a pervasive sense that the breakdown of law and order may also accounts for how scammers confidently swindle unsuspecting victims or how burglars brazenly break into homes to rob and steal.
 Originated from India, they are lunch boxes that come in 2 or 3 tiers and widely used in Malaysia in the 50s and 60s. In Bombay they are called “dabbawalas”. In today’s green world, tiffin carriers make environmental sense.
 The critique of Christ against the scribes and the Pharisees refers to this divide. They are public figures with private lives.
 We resemble the image by contemplating and imitating who God is. It may explain why Mother Theresa and her sisters usually spend enough time before the Blessed Sacrament so that they can learn to recognise God in others.