Today's readings tell us something interesting about power, about authority. In our world there are many different models for power. There is the military model. In the military model, power is attained by brute strength. The nation with the most powerful weaponry and the best army will be the nation with power. People respond to this power out of fear, knowing that there could be repercussions if the authority is not obeyed. But, this model is fatally flawed because it is dependent upon strength, not goodness or justice. The military model is much like settling disputes in the Runyon household, the one who yells loudest is correct, not necessarily the one with the best argument.
Next, there is the democratic model. In this model, power is given to some at the will of the majority. This is the model we follow here in America. We vote for certain leaders and they get the power to make laws and to defend laws. People respond to this kind of power out of duty and respect to the political process. If we don't agree with the people in charge, we can vote for others the next time it comes around. Again, this model is fatally flawed since it is not based upon truth, but upon the will of the majority. Democracy might be better than dictatorship, which is based on the will of an individual. But, democracy is still based on the whims of the majority. In the democratic model, who stands up for the weak, those without voices, I'm thinking in particular of the unborn, who speaks for them?
Another model prevalent in our world today is the terrorist model. This model preys on our insecurities. This model tries to wrest power from the strong and from the majority by playing on human fear. By endangering our way of life, the terrorist seeks power at the cost of human dignity, at the cost of reason, at all costs. The terrorist will even destroy themselves to further the cause of fear.
What a contrast Jesus provides us with! We hear in the second reading that all glory, honor, and power belong by right to the lamb who was slain. Jesus Christ deserves all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and he is the lamb who was slain. He did not take power by brute strength, he did not win power by election or popular vote, he did not die as an attack on others. Rather his sacrificial death, his death on behalf of others gained for him all power and glory. All people shall obey him. Jesus undoes all of our models of power. Instead of strength, he dies on the cross. Instead of swaying the popular vote, the crowd turned against him. Instead of attacking others, he allows himself to be attacked, to die. Yet, through this suffering, through this death, he overcomes sin and death. After his resurrection he ascends to the heights of heaven where he is seated upon his throne. The power of Christ, the king of the universe is born out of suffering, out of service: he came not to be served but to serve.
In the gospel we hear Christ handing over authority to Peter: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. For the Christian, power and authority must correspond to Christ's authority. Peter was not given authority to be served, but he was called to serve. The same is true for all of us, as parents, as teachers, as priest, leaders of all kinds, whatever authority we have, we should exercise this authority as Christ, by sacrificing ourselves so that others might live.
Where did Peter get the inspiration to exercise authority this way? Where do we get that inspiration: notice that before Christ tells Peter to feed his sheep, each time he asks him: do you love me? It is our relationship with Christ that is the foundation of all that we do. To love Christ is the first most important thing. Loving Christ will allow us to answer like the apostles: I must obey God, not the whim of human authority. And when we find ourselves in authority, our love of God should motivate us to lead by living lives of service.
When we come to this Eucharist Christ again reaches out to us, as he did to the apostles saying: have something to eat. Receive the Lord's body and blood, draw closer to Christ. Fall so deeply in love with Christ that like St. Peter you will feed his sheep, fall so deeply in love with Christ that like the apostles you must obey God, fall deeply in love with the lamb who was slain, to whom all power, honor, and glory belong.