Monday, October 22, 2018
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Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This formula works only with humans who have a tendency toward sin and have not yet overcome it by grace. Well I guess fallen angels too. Those who have abused their freedom will abuse any power they have as well.
James and John come before Jesus today walking on seriously thin ice: they know that Jesus has given Simon Peter a special role in the kingdom because he gave him a new name and the keys. They want some of that power for themselves. They got nicknames too, it says in Mark's gospel, boanarges, the Sons of Thunder (doesn't that sound like a rock band?) and they are wondering if some power can come along with that name. But they are blind to all Jesus has been trying to say again and again. Talk about selective hearing. The only thing that stays in their head is the glory part and not the suffering part, which goes in one ear and out the other. Jesus might have felt like he was dealing with teenagers - no offense to teenagers, because we all act this way at our worst.
What we see is the potential for a power-trip.
This is indeed a reality that hits close to home, for we are seeing nowadays the exposure of ways leaders in the church have abused their power in horrific, sinful ways. Just this past week, Archbishop Vigano issued a third testimony letter in response to the problem of human weakness within the leaders of the church which has lately centered around the U.S. ex-Cardinal McCarick. And unfortunately, this isn't new, for the saying that "power corrupts" can be traced back thousands of years.
Jesus shows us how authority is meant to be used. To love is to spend yourself for others. "Can you drink the cup?" James and John don't know what Jesus really means here, but are more than happy to say yes. Indeed, they will drink the cup of martyrdom someday, but only after their delusions of grandeur are shattered by the crucified Lord, between two other criminals bleeding and suffocating to death at Jesus' right and his left, ironically in the exact places James and John are just asking to be seated. Jesus' lesson is a wake up call for not only the twelve apostles, but for all of us: "great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
The temptation to abuse power is always there for us fallen creatures. It is the same temptation that the devil offered Adam and Eve "you may become like gods." This is a spiritual battle we continue in, and so Bishop Rhoades (and Pope Francis) want us to remember to call upon divine assistance. This is why we now have prayer cards to Saint Michael the Archangel. Please leave them in the pews to be prayed after every Mass for the months ahead.
The final question for us is: how will I serve today? Who will I serve today? For if I do not serve someone, then I am only serving myself.