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Bible Reflections View Comments

The Power of the Cross
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
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Last week Jesus had an encounter with a rich man who seemed to be letting his many possessions hold him back from becoming a disciple. Let’s imagine that, like Jesus’s chosen twelve, we manage to let go of all of our stuff. Have we made it to the top? Not necessarily. Because we still think making it to the top is what it’s all about.

I recently heard a compelling interpretation of the Franciscan vow of poverty as living with nothing to defend. Fr. Dan Crosby, a Capuchin Franciscan, pointed out how often people who willingly have given up material possessions will point to that sacrifice as a matter of pride. In the absence of material things, spiritual and intellectual achievements can take on too much importance for us. Anytime we become defensive about who we are or what we do, we need to ask whether we’re not still placing ourselves at the center of the universe.

Before Jesus began his public ministry, he was led into the desert to confront three temptations: turning stones to bread (material wealth), throwing himself from a cliff into the arms of God’s waiting angels (power), and bowing down before the Father of Lies in order to rule the nations (prestige).

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus leads his disciples to recognize that they, too, must fight those temptations. Those who give in to an expectation of privilege because of their positions of religious leadership rarely succeed in what really matters: leading others to recognize the presence of God in their midst.

Human society has long been structured according to hierarchical patterns. In the business world, in the political world, it’s all about winning. The notion of a servant leader would be laughed at in many boardrooms around the world. Even Jesus realizes that he’s probably not going to change that reality in a fallen world. But what he tells his disciples is this: “It must not be that way with you.”

Again and again throughout the history of Christianity, institutions have fallen prey to the temptation to power. And when that happens, prophets come along to challenge the leaders to return to the message of the Gospel. More often than not, it’s a thankless task. We don’t let go of our perks and privileges willingly for the most part. Ironically, even those with no power or prestige will defend those who have it, because secretly they hope to get there someday. We like to bask in the reflected glory of belonging to an institution that’s always right, always perfect, always powerful.

This section in Mark’s Gospel is the last preparation for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there. It’s his last chance to help the disciples understand the full implication of his identity as the Messiah and what it would mean for them as his followers. No matter how often he tells them that the Son of Man must suffer and die, they’re still filled with dreams of glory and the promise of an earthly kingdom with all its trappings.

Our world, our country, even our religious institutions, are not likely to change any time soon. But if we each do our own part to let go of having power over others and learn to use what power we have to do good for them, we may see small signs of hope even now in these difficult times. If we can stop defending the indefensible, we will discover the true power of Christ, the power of the cross.


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Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort: Louis's life is inseparable from his efforts to promote genuine devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus and mother of the Church. <i>Totus tuus </i>(completely yours) was Louis's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II, October 22) chose it as his episcopal motto. 
<p>Born in the Breton village of Montfort, close to Rennes (France), as an adult Louis identified himself by the place of his Baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. After being educated by the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700. </p><p>Soon he began preaching parish missions throughout western France. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with Church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's ongoing acceptance of God's will for her life. </p><p>Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book <i>True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin</i> has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion. </p><p>Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized in 1947.</p> American Catholic Blog The Lord has given us human beings the ability to reason. We have an intellect and are able to use our reasoning skills to arrive at logical decisions. As long as our conclusions don't conflict with any of the Lord's teachings, He absolutely expects us to use our intelligence.


 
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