The “authority” that is of God

14th Sunday of the Year July 7th

In their book Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, tell the inspiring story of the congresswoman’s recovery from the traumatic brain injury she suffered in January 2011 when she was shot while meeting with constituents.

Mark Kelly writes that he has been struck at how “our spouses are often our teachers, guiding us in ways that may be clear only in retrospect” and recalls a particular moment.

” . . . after my second spaceflight, in 2006 . . . Gabby and I got to have lunch with the legendary British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Dr. Hawking is paralyzed due to a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease. It takes him an excruciatingly long time to say anything and I pretty much gave up on conversing with him beyond a few pleasantries. But Gabby was just incredible. She intuitively knew what to do.

“After my failed attempt at interacting with Dr. Hawking, she kneeled down in front of his wheelchair and said, ‘Dr. Hawking, how are you today?’ As far as she was concerned there was no one else in the crowded room. She waited silently and patiently. Using a device that tracks the motion of a single facial muscle, he took at least ten minutes to compose and utter the phrase ‘I’m fine. How are you?’ Gabby was in no rush. She could have kneeled there for an hour, waiting for an answer. I was so impressed.

“After Gabby was injured, I found myself thinking about her encounter with Dr. Hawking. In fact, that memory helped me understand how I’d need to interact with her . . . It was as if Gabby was giving me a message back in 2006: ‘Watch me. I will be your teacher. Someday, you’ll have to be patient with me and this is how you’ll need to do it.”


Mark learns patience from the example of his wife Gabby in the same way that Jesus’ hearers learn from Jesus’ example of compassion and justice. What they see as Jesus’ “authority” is grounded in the wisdom that comes from experience and a commitment to selfless generosity. The source of Jesus’ “authority” is not in manipulating his hearers’ fear, apathy or ignorance but his ability to inspire them to embrace his spirit of mercy, justice and respect. Those who speak not to our emotions and wants but to our consciences, who speak not in catchy slogans and buzz words but in the convictions of their experience, who share with us from the wealth of their own hard work and study possess the “authority” that is of God, an authority that is worthy of our respect and attentiveness.   Gabby Giffords, in the “authority” of her own patience and understanding for others, “teaches” her husband to do the same. Jesus, in the “authority” of his example of humble service, teaches and inspires us to embrace his call to follow him.

Through our sharing in this Eucharist may we possess the joy and courage to embrace our call to be prophets of God’s presence among us and faithful witnesses of his mercy and justice in our time and place.

May God open our hearts to listen to Christ’s “prophetic” word of justice, forgiveness and reconciliation and give us a prophet’s spirit of humility and gratitude to be changed and transformed by that word.