Scriptures/Liturgy- Commentary on Sunday's Readings
"The Great Exercise of Power"
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, Pontifical Household Preacher
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Isaiah 53:2a.,3a.,10-11; Hebrews
4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
After the Gospel on riches, this
Sunday's Gospel gives us Christ's judgment on another of the great idols
of the world: power.
Power, like money, is not intrinsically evil. God describes himself as
"the Omnipotent" and Scripture says "power belongs to God" (Psalm
However, given that man had abused the power granted to him,
transforming it into control by the strongest and oppression of the
weakest, what did God do?
To give us an example, God stripped himself of his omnipotence; from
being "omnipotent," he made himself "impotent."
He "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). He
transformed power into service. The first reading of the day contains a
prophetic description of this "impotent" Savior. "He grew up like a
sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth. ... He was
spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to
Thus a new power is revealed, that of the cross: "Rather, God chose the
foolish of the world to shame the wise" (1 Corinthians 1:27). In the
Magnificat, Mary sings in advance this silent revolution brought by the
coming of Christ: "He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones"
Who is accused under this denunciation of power? Only dictators and
tyrants? Would that it were so! It would refer, in this case, to
exceptions. Instead, it affects us all. Power has infinite
ramifications, it gets in everywhere, as certain sands of the Sahara
when the sirocco wind blows. It even gets into the Church.
The problem of power, therefore, is not posed only in the political
realm. If we stay in that realm, we do no more than join the group of
those who are always ready to strike others' breast for their own
faults. It is easy to denounce collective faults, or those of the past;
it is far more difficult when it comes to personal and present faults.
Mary says that God "dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart; he has
thrown down the rulers from their thrones" (Luke 1:51ff.). She singles
out implicitly a precise area in which the "will to power" must be
combated: our own hearts.
Our minds -- the thoughts of the heart -- can become a kind of throne on
which we sit to dictate laws and thunder against those who do not submit
to us. We are, at least in our wishes if not in deeds, the "mighty on
Sadly, in the family itself it is possible that our innate will to power
and abuse might manifest itself, causing constant suffering to those who
are victims of it, which is often -- not always -- the woman.
What does the Gospel oppose to power? Service: a power for others, not
Power confers authority, but service confers something more, authority
that means respect, esteem, a true ascendancy over others. The Gospel
also opposes power with nonviolence, that is, power of another kind,
moral, not physical power.
Jesus said that he could have asked the Father for twelve legions of
angels to defeat his enemies who were just about to crucify him (Matthew
26:53), but he preferred to pray for them. And it was in this way that
he achieved victory.
Service is not always expressed, however, in silence and submission to
power. Sometimes it can impel one to raise one's voice against power and
its abuses. This is what Jesus did. In his life he experienced the abuse
of the political and religious power of the time. That is why he is
close to all those -- in any environment (the family, community, civil
society) --who go through the experience of an evil and tyrannical
With his help it is possible not "to be overcome by evil," as he was not
-- more than that, to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
[Translation by ZENIT]
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