Rethink Power and Prestige
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
by Fr. David M. Knight
Mark 9:30-37. Year II: James 4:3-10; Psalm 55:7-23.
As they walked back toward Galilee, Jesus was concerned about his disciples’ lack of faith. Not just ordinary faith: they had enough faith to believe in him as an impressive teacher and miracle-worker. But not enough to accept him as a Messiah who would let his enemies kill him rather than use power against them, human or divine, to save his life. Or theirs! The prayer of the father they had just left was still echoing in his ears: “I do have faith. Help my lack of faith.”
Jesus knew his disciples in the Church would not have power to cast out the real demons of society, of any human culture, unless they accepted the root principle of Christianity: the “doctrine of the cross.” They had to accept Baptism as a dying, with and in Christ, to everything this world offers, and a rising to live only as his risen, saving body on earth. They had to accept every Eucharist as a renewal of the covenant, joining themselves consciously to Jesus on the cross, saying with him to every member of the human race, “This is my body, given up for you.”
Without that, the demons accepted as the unquestioned rulers (ruling principles) of every human society would still keep casting one nation after another “into fire and water, to destroy it.” So Jesus repeated, with emphasis: “The Son of Man is to be betrayed. His enemies will kill him. And after three days, he will rise again.”
But they “did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” They didn’t want to hear it. So he shook another fundamental principle of cultural values. He told them they were to consider, not only power, but prestige as dangers to their faith. He forbade them to attach prestige to any function in the Church: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Another radical principle. In every area of life — business, politics, the military — those with more authority are given greater signs of importance and respect. Through titles, dress, rules of protocol. But in the Church that must not be.
We ignore this teaching. Jesus knew we would. So he “took a little child in his arms,” and said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” The essential dignity of all Christians is identification with Jesus in grace. To pretend that office or position increases that dignity is to deny it. But to accept this mystery, we have to become like little children ourselves, looking at life with new and open eyes (Matthew 18:1-4).
Initiative: Rethink power and prestige. Start with Jesus and go from there.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry