December 27, 2011

Power and the Flesh

There's a liberal priest who blogs and who is avidly followed by a family member. The priest recently criticized the pope obliquely by comparing him, unfavorably, with the average CEO. Our numbers aren't improving - Christians make up only about 17% of the world's population - therefore our "CEO" isn't doing his job. This is false on so many levels, beginning with the fact that we look without when we should be looking within, but even given that I don't think we can measure our success with numbers. And I think it's because we are confused about power, as said so eloquently by far and away the best priest blogger I'm aware of, the Friar Minor:

Reflecting on Christmas, and especially our Holy Father's Christmas homily in which St. Francis plays such a part, I've been thinking about contemporary disbelief in God and how maybe it relates to our wrong ideas of power.

Perhaps part of what makes it so hard for folks to believe in God--and even for us religious folks, sometimes, to act as if he exists--is that we are confused about power. God is the Almighty; he is the infinite creative power that made the heavens and the earth and sustains all things in being. And yet, when the Almighty God is revealed to us, what do we get? First, a baby born not only in an obscure place but away from home, to plain parents, and into an ethnic group that was--at least at that time--historically important by no accepted standard. Second, a tortured and convicted criminal being executed on the cross. Christ crucified could not even move his hands and feet, much less control anything or make anybody do anything. And yet these are the privileged revelations of the all-powerful, Almighty God.

Perhaps when we talk about power we are too often talking about what is really the abuse of power, the leverage or ability to manipulate and coerce, to make others conform to our will, to co-opt others into the disorders of our hearts and the futility of our sins.

In Jesus Christ the highest power is revealed as self-emptying humility. If we were to come to really understand and practice our own wills to power in this way, maybe it would be easier to believe in God. Indeed, perhaps God would become as self-evident as he necessarily must be.

Not that it's easy. To embrace the true power revealed in humility is hard on the flesh, which has lusted for the violent domination of others ever since Cain killed his own brother. The crown of thorns cuts and digs when we put it on. But is the crown of the true royalty of this world, of those who bear the real power that is the only source of peace.


Elena LaVictoire said...

Hey, Happy 4th Day of Christmas and a Great New Year!

TS said...

Likewise to you!