Probably the most devastating trait of any religion is the urge to control, the urge to dominate, the urge to power.
This urge is almost ubiquitous in one way or another in human politics, in human societies, even in the human family.
Christianity is the antithesis of this.
‘For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
‘At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, Amen I say to you …… whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
‘The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’
‘Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’
‘Jesus said, the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.’
Most, if not all religions, including ourselves, have conveniently forgotten this. We shower each other with titles and fancy costumes to denote our importance and our greatness. We seem incapable of freeing ourselves from our addiction to greatness and recognition.
Do we Christians ever think of this as a fault, as a sin? Surely this involves the first two of what used to be called the seven deadly sins – pride and covetousness!
When Jesus said ‘Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?’ surely this was one of the things he had in mind. Religions so often condemn sexual misdemeanours and totally ignore their own lust for power, control and influence.
Many of our clergy are antagonistic to the reforms which Pope Francis is trying to bring about. They fully realise that what he is trying to do will challenge their power, their dignity, their control – their greatness. He calls it clericalism and severely condemns it. Parish priests are certainly not immune to the above.
All of us in St. Patrick’s parish must be aware of, and avoid, any desire to praise ourselves or our achievements. We must avoid trumpeting our praises to others. Self praise is always suspect. What Jesus said as regards almsgiving is also applicable here – ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right is doing …… And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’