Saturday, September 19, 2009

The way of the Cross versus the way of power

I found this article by Fr. Juan Masiá Clavel, SJ, sufficiently interesting to translate it completely into English. Clavel is a Spanish Jesuit and theologian who is currently living and working in Japan in the Institute for Peace Studies of the Japanese branch of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. His Web site and blog are trilingual -- English, Spanish and Japanese.

"Get behind me, Satan!"

Strong words. Jesus calls Peter "Satan". Peter wanted to lead Jesus away from his path, he recommended that He seize power.

Can you imagine the Church leaders receiving an e-mail in the morning that comes from Heaven and that would say: "Get behind me, Satan"? It would not be unusual for that message to come every time the cohabitation of the institutional church with the powers of this world alienates people from the faith.

When we seek power, influence, prestige and domination, we are not in line with the network that Jesus initiated -- one not of power but of service.

The temptation of Jesus (Mk 1:13) was to take power, to boast of being the "Holy One of God" (Mk 1:24, 3:11), asserting his authority with a sign from Heaven (Mk 8:11), or coming down from the Cross (Mk 15:30). But Jesus doesn't fall into this temptation. The way He recommends to those in His network is not the way of power. "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you." (Mk 10:42-43)

Mark says "Satan". Satan is not the devil, but rather temptation, which is within oneself. When commenting on this text, interpreting Satan as "the demon" (that can be blamed for evil and temptation), weakens the symbol of evil and changes it into an external evil figure that must be expelled with the trickery of exorcisms.

There are believers who think that believing in demons and hell is part of the Creed. No, evil is in the ambiguity that is inside each one of us. Individual and communal temptation does not come from a satanic figure. The temptation is power. And the Church has fallen into that temptation again and again throughout its history. That is why it is hard for us to pray in St. Peter's Basilica and we escape to the catacombs to restore the faith that is weakened through Michelangelo and Bernini.

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