After the Gospel on riches, this Sunday’s Gospel gives us Christ’s judgment on another of the great idols of the world: power. Power, like money, is not intrinsically evil. God describes himself as “the Omnipotent” and Scripture says “power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
Mark 10: 35-45
“The Great Exercise of Power”
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa
Isaiah 53:2a.,3a.,10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
After the Gospel on riches, this Sunday’s Gospel gives us Christ’s judgment on another of the great idols of the world: power.
Power, like money, is not intrinsically evil. God describes himself as “the Omnipotent” and Scripture says “power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
However, given that man had abused the power granted to him, transforming it into control by the strongest and oppression of the weakest, what did God do?
To give us an example, God stripped himself of his omnipotence; from being “omnipotent,” he made himself “impotent.”
He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). He transformed power into service. The first reading of the day contains a prophetic description of this “impotent” Savior. “He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth. … He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity.”
Thus a new power is revealed, that of the cross: “Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). In the Magnificat, Mary sings in advance this silent revolution brought by the coming of Christ: “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones” (Luke 1:52).
Who is accused under this denunciation of power? Only dictators and tyrants? Would that it were so! It would refer, in this case, to exceptions. Instead, it affects us all. Power has infinite ramifications, it gets in everywhere, as certain sands of the Sahara when the sirocco wind blows. It even gets into the Church.
The problem of power, therefore, is not posed only in the political realm. If we stay in that realm, we do no more than join the group of those who are always ready to strike others’ breast for their own faults. It is easy to denounce collective faults, or those of the past; it is far more difficult when it comes to personal and present faults.
Mary says that God “dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart; he has thrown down the rulers from their thrones” (Luke 1:51ff.). She singles out implicitly a precise area in which the “will to power” must be combated: our own hearts.
Our minds — the thoughts of the heart — can become a kind of throne on which we sit to dictate laws and thunder against those who do not submit to us. We are, at least in our wishes if not in deeds, the “mighty on thrones.”
Sadly, in the family itself it is possible that our innate will to power and abuse might manifest itself, causing constant suffering to those who are victims of it, which is often — not always — the woman.
What does the Gospel oppose to power? Service: a power for others, not over others!
Power confers authority, but service confers something more, authority that means respect, esteem, a true ascendancy over others. The Gospel also opposes power with nonviolence, that is, power of another kind, moral, not physical power.
Jesus said that he could have asked the Father for twelve legions of angels to defeat his enemies who were just about to crucify him (Matthew 26:53), but he preferred to pray for them. And it was in this way that he achieved victory.
Service is not always expressed, however, in silence and submission to power. Sometimes it can impel one to raise one’s voice against power and its abuses. This is what Jesus did. In his life he experienced the abuse of the political and religious power of the time. That is why he is close to all those — in any environment (the family, community, civil society) –who go through the experience of an evil and tyrannical power.
With his help it is possible not “to be overcome by evil,” as he was not — more than that, to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
[Translation by ZENIT]
Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all
Dear young people, I would like to reflect with you on the mission that we have received from Christ. In speaking to you, I also address all Christians who live out in the Church the adventure of their life as children of God. What leads me to speak to everyone through this conversation with you is the certainty that the Christian faith remains ever young when it is open to the mission that Christ entrusts to us. “Mission revitalizes faith” (Redemptoris Missio, 2), in the words of Saint John Paul II, a Pope who showed such great love and concern for young people.
The Synod to be held in Rome this coming October, the month of the missions, offers us an opportunity to understand more fully, in the light of faith, what the Lord Jesus wants to say to you young people, and, through you, to all Christian communities.
Life is a mission
Every man and woman is a mission; that is the reason for our life on this earth. To be attracted and to be sent are two movements that our hearts, especially when we are young, feel as interior forces of love; they hold out promise for our future and they give direction to our lives. More than anyone else, young people feel the power of life breaking in upon us and attracting us. To live out joyfully our responsibility for the world is a great challenge. I am well aware of lights and shadows of youth; when I think back to my youth and my family, I remember the strength of my hope for a better future. The fact that we are not in this world by our own choice makes us sense that there is an initiative that precedes us and makes us exist. Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: “I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).
We proclaim Jesus Christ
The Church, by proclaiming what she freely received (cf. Mt 10:8; Acts 3:6), can share with you young people the way and truth which give meaning to our life on this earth. Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, appeals to our freedom and challenges us to seek, discover and proclaim this message of truth and fulfilment. Dear young people, do not be afraid of Christ and his Church! For there we find the treasure that fills life with joy. I can tell you this from my own experience: thanks to faith, I found the sure foundation of my dreams and the strength to realize them. I have seen great suffering and poverty mar the faces of so many of our brothers and sisters. And yet, for those who stand by Jesus, evil is an incentive to ever greater love. Many men and women, and many young people, have generously sacrificed themselves, even at times to martyrdom, out of love for the Gospel and service to their brothers and sisters. From the cross of Jesus we learn the divine logic of self-sacrifice (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-25) as a proclamation of the Gospel for the life of the world (cf. Jn 3:16). To be set afire by the love of Christ is to be consumed by that fire, to grow in understanding by its light and to be warmed by its love (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). At the school of the saints, who open us to the vast horizons of God, I invite you never to stop wondering: “What would Christ do if he were in my place?”
Transmitting the faith to the ends of the earth
You too, young friends, by your baptism have become living members of the Church; together we have received the mission to bring the Gospel to everyone. You are at the threshold of life. To grow in the grace of the faith bestowed on us by the Church’s sacraments plunges us into that great stream of witnesses who, generation after generation, enable the wisdom and experience of older persons to become testimony and encouragement for those looking to the future. And the freshness and enthusiasm of the young makes them a source of support and hope for those nearing the end of their journey. In this blend of different stages in life, the mission of the Church bridges the generations; our faith in God and our love of neighbor are a source of profound unity.
This transmission of the faith, the heart of the Church’s mission, comes about by the infectiousness of love, where joy and enthusiasm become the expression of a newfound meaning and fulfilment in life. The spread of the faith “by attraction” calls for hearts that are open and expanded by love. It is not possible to place limits on love, for love is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6). And that expansion generates encounter, witness, proclamation; it generates sharing in charity with all those far from the faith, indifferent to it and perhaps even hostile and opposed to it. Human, cultural and religious settings still foreign to the Gospel of Jesus and to the sacramental presence of the Church represent the extreme peripheries, the “ends of the earth”, to which, ever since the first Easter, Jesus’ missionary disciples have been sent, with the certainty that their Lord is always with them (cf. Mt 28:20; Acts 1:8). This is what we call the missio ad gentes. The most desolate periphery of all is where mankind, in need of Christ, remains indifferent to the faith or shows hatred for the fullness of life in God. All material and spiritual poverty, every form of discrimination against our brothers and sisters, is always a consequence of the rejection of God and his love.
The ends of the earth, dear young people, nowadays are quite relative and always easily “navigable”. The digital world – the social networks that are so pervasive and readily available – dissolves borders, eliminates distances and reduces differences. Everything appears within reach, so close and immediate. And yet lacking the sincere gift of our lives, we could well have countless contacts but never share in a true communion of life. To share in the mission to the ends of the earth demands the gift of oneself in the vocation that God, who has placed us on this earth, chooses to give us (cf. Lk 9:23-25). I dare say that, for a young man or woman who wants to follow Christ, what is most essential is to seek, to discover and to persevere in his or her vocation.
Bearing witness to love
I am grateful to all those ecclesial groups that make it possible for you to have a personal encounter with Christ living in his Church: parishes, associations, movements, religious communities, and the varied expressions of missionary service. How many young people find in missionary volunteer work a way of serving the “least” of our brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:40), promoting human dignity and witnessing to the joy of love and of being Christians! These ecclesial experiences educate and train young people not only for professional success, but also for developing and fostering their God-given gifts in order better to serve others. These praiseworthy forms of temporary missionary service are a fruitful beginning and, through vocational discernment, they can help you to decide to make a complete gift of yourselves as missionaries.
The Pontifical Mission Societies were born of young hearts as a means of supporting the preaching of the Gospel to every nation and thus contributing to the human and cultural growth of all those who thirst for knowledge of the truth. The prayers and the material aid generously given and distributed through the Pontifical Mission Societies enable the Holy See to ensure that those who are helped in their personal needs can in turn bear witness to the Gospel in the circumstances of their daily lives. No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are. Let me repeat the words of encouragement that I addressed to the young people of Chile: “Never think that you have nothing to offer, or that nobody needs you. Many people need you. Think about it! Each of you, think in your heart: many people need me” (Meeting with Young People, Maipu Shrine, 17 January 2018).
Dear young people, this coming October, the month of the missions, we will hold the Synod devoted to you. It will prove to be one more occasion to help us become missionary disciples, ever more passionately devoted to Jesus and his mission, to the ends of the earth. I ask Mary, Queen of the Apostles, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Blessed Paolo Manna to intercede for all of us and to accompany us always.
From the Vatican, 20 May 2018, Solemnity of Pentecost