Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today’s Gospel indicates to us quite clearly that Jesus Christ is radically differentiated from the practices of this world, as dictated by a timeless human passion; the passion of power, the passion of domination over our fellow people.
Jesus Christ talks to His disciples about the path of suffering and humiliation. Yet His disciples are antagonizing each other for supposedly upcoming posts of power. James and John ask for two thrones of worldly glory on the right and left side of Christ. They seem to wish not for their participation in the revival of the world, but for their participation in an allegedly coming new power.
The answer of our Lord is unequivocal: “You do not know what you are asking“, He tells them. At first reading, the response refers to the Passion of Jesus Christ. So it is as though His disciples are asking to share that pain, even if they do not really understand what it is about.
At the same time the answer of our Lord is a warning to all those who are seduced by the sirens of the power of this world. It is a warning regarding the temptations of power; the progressive corruption of our existence from power; the deterioration of our character inflicted by power, leading sometimes even to our alienation from Jesus Christ.
Our Lord speaks unconditionally. The powerful of the world do not just rule: they dominate. The powerful of the world do not just take the power: they are obsessed with power. Jesus Christ is directly pointing to the human passion of power abuse, even if this stems from the noblest intentions.
Regarding this human passion, Christ leaves no room for misunderstanding. He does not say to His disciples to dominate, yet to be careful; or to conquer, yet not to forget the existing dangers. Instead, He says to His disciples: “It shall not be so among you.”
Our Lord does not ask from us to estrange ourselves from the world. Yet He asks from us to stay away from the authoritarian mentality. He asks from us to participate in the world, yet as servants of others. The mission He entrusts in us is clear: we need to be involved for the good of the world.
I know that the call to the ministry of others leads several times to frustration. We get disappointed by the vices of this world. We become disappointed by the sense that sometimes our sacrifices go in vain. We get hurt by the ingratitude of others. We get hurt by the duplicity of others. We feel resentment, as people are being intoxicated by the charm of the authoritarian spirit.
In these moments of weakness, let us bring to our mind Jesus Christ who, during His earthly life, tasted the hardness of human power. He was misunderstood and persecuted; the One who, out of extreme condescension, became man in order to offer us heaven. He was persecuted and humiliated; the One who, out of extreme love, adopted the created man and brought him into communion with the uncreated God.
Let us continue to minister to our fellow people, recognizing in their person the presence of Christ. Let us continue to manifest Christ in our lives, praying: “I have trusted in God; I do not fear what man may do to me“. Amen!