Power and honor are attractive temptations. Power is alluring because we want to be in control. Many of us believe that control provides security and safety. Many of us believe that power provides access and control over our environment and situations as they arise. Honor has an attraction also because we want to belong, we want to be a part of. With honor and fame we believe we will be accepted, liked, have access, without the risk of rejection.
Power and honor become a problem when they are grounded in our self and that we feel we attain them on our own initiative. They become an asset if we recognize them as gifts from God that help us to promote his kingdom. In and of themselves, power and honor are finite expressions. If they are only fueled by our insatiable desire to put our self first, front and center, we will not only constantly fall short, but we will constantly be seeking more, because nothing finite can fulfill the transcendental hunger that we have to belong to someone so much greater than ourselves, who is God.
The disciples of Jesus run smack into the temptations of power and honor in today’s Gospel from Mark. Jesus has just shared with them that he will be handed over and killed. But that he will rise again. The disciples do not understand what Jesus is saying, so they grasp for what they can understand from their experience and culture. What they hear instead is that Jesus will lead them into a new reign. They dismiss any idea of his death, and they begin to jockey among themselves for places of priority in his kingdom. They seek positions of power and honor.
Jesus, aware of what his disciples are discussing, even though they are not willing to come clean, sits down among the Twelve and presents to them what it will mean to be his follower when he says: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Power and honor does not come by being served, true power and honor comes from the source of all existence, God the Creator. Nor is the infinite power of God some impersonal force that we tap into.
We receive the power of God by serving the one who is omnipotent, all powerful, and worthy of all honor and praise. We receive the power of God by experiencing and developing a relationship with him, through his Son and the Love of the Holy Spirit. The path of discipleship is traveled by those willing to follow the lead of our almighty God and Father, submitting to his will, embracing the gifts he has given, and sharing what we have received with others.
True power is trusting not in the material and finite things of the world because they are unstable. The foundation that we seek comes from building a relationship with Jesus and participating in his life because he is the source of our life. The closer we get to him, the closer we access the truth of who we are and God calls us to be. Honor is just a recognition of our participating in the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, which are expressions or foretastes of heaven. Honor becomes instead from the attractiveness that others see in us, wanting what we have, which is the indwelling of God radiating out from our joy.
Let us relinquish our perceived access of control in a fallen world that is ever unstable and changing and instead place our hope and trust in the one who is our destiny, who is our hope, refuge and strength. Let us let go of the desire to be liked and adored by the fickleness of others and instead strive to be true to who we are. As we live our life in accordance with God’s will, trusting that he is our firm foundation, there will be those drawn to us, because they see Jesus radiating out from us. As others are drawn to us, we are to, like Mary, point to Jesus, and like Jesus, point to God as the source of our joy and fulfillment.
Photo: Graduates surprise visit yesterday, coming to share their joy!
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, May 22, 2018: