A Reflection for the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Jesus spends a lifetime of ministry warning folks near and far that, often, those in authority are some of the biggest hypocrites living and ministering about. In today’s gospel, Jesus makes this painfully clear once more to both his disciples and “to the crowds.” Then as much as today, this is a disquieting message because it often strikes at the heart of so much of what is wrong with our flawed and fallen institutions, including at times our beloved Church. Finding oneself in a position of authority requires not merely saying good things and undertaking good deeds, but being good in essence. This doesn’t mean we can’t fail and fall down sometimes. We all do. What it does mean, especially for leaders of the Church, is that we ought often to resist the urge to overcomplicate authority and instead just simply be the goodness that we are: beloved sons and daughters of a God who knows us and loves us more than we can ever know and love ourselves.This week, I am starting to teach my one Grade 8 Advanced class Elie Wiesel’s Night as part of a unit entitled “Living God’s Law.” A few years ago, I met and befriended a mentee and teaching assistant of Wiesel’s at Boston University named Ariel Burger. In 2018, Burger published a work on life lessons and musings of Wiesel taught in the classroom and beyond called Witness. In a chapter entitled “And it was enough,” Burger chronicles an instance of a student who asks Wiesel how people should really come to understand the horrors of the Holocaust and, in particular, the intense and life-altering atrocities experienced by a young Wiesel himself. Wiesel responded with great certainty: “listening to a witness makes you a witness.” Amidst a moral mess that could well be understood as exceedingly more complex, it was that simple. Listening to a witness makes you a witness—and not in a passive way. To bear witness for the Christian means accepting an invitation to participation in a Divine Truth beyond human understanding. Jesus came to affirm that those in authority should simply, beautifully and often through difficulty, bear authentic witness to the Truth. For those in authority, St. Peter reminds us that we must “share in the glory to be revealed” and “be examples to the flock” (1 Pt. 5:1-4).True authority comes simply by bearing witness.