You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the GentilesThese are among my favorite words in the New Testament, words that make me squirm and yet at the same time remind me so forcefully of what discipleship is about. Having been to three Masses this weekend one would think that I'm sermoned out ... however, as always, I find Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's to be though-provoking and inspiring. Here's his homily on "Power" for this Sunday.
lord it over them,
and their 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.(Mark 10:42-44, NAB)
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.