Hold onto power

“What would induce anyone at this stage to hold onto power only to be remembered for their in ability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” Pope Francis asks this question, of those threatening the survival of our planet through their activities, in his letter on Care for our Common Home, (Laudato Si’ #57).

This letter has had a big impact and is widely quoted beyond the confines of the Catholic Church. Although he has used impeccable technical and scientific arguments to support his words, the pope’s emphasis is on the moral choice humankind now has to make.

Holding onto power is not only a preoccupation of our leaders in Africa – though it does seem to be widespread among us – it is a universal phenomenon reaching into industry, finance and trade and religion. It seems that once a person has tasted power they are seduced by it and cannot find the freedom to walk away from it after they have served their time.

The “failure” of Jesus’ mission was all to do with the leaders of Israel at that time clinging on to the power they had and refusing to even consider that their time was over. Jesus used a powerful allegory about them: a man had a vineyard and leased it to servants whose task was to develop the property on behalf of the owner. But they were intent on enjoying themselves and took no notice of the messengers the owner sent to check on them. In fact they rejected and mistreated them. Finally the owner sent his son as his final effort to make them change their mind. But, so intent were the servants on holding on to what they had, they killed the son in the belief that now the vineyard would be theirs.

We are left with questions. Why can people not see beyond the little world they have created out of self-interest? Can they not see the bigger picture: the common good of all? Do they really think they will not be held to account for their actions?

Towards the end of his letter, Pope Francis points to that broader picture: “We are always more effective when we generate processes rather than holding on to positions of power” (#178). We will be remembered if we start something sound even if we do not live to see the fruit. We can think of (American President) Abraham Lincoln who could easily have made other choices if his plan was to hold onto power. But he chose the risky path of confronting slavery and secession and he paid for it with his life. He “lost” power but he gained a reputation for being the greatest of all the presidents of the USA.

8 October 2017                                   Sunday 27 A

Isaiah 5:1-7                                         Philippians 4:6-9                     Matthew 21:33-43

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Post published in: Faith
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  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton

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