One of the big words of today’s world and society is, certainly, power. Power is the roadmap for every success, be it moral and immoral. Power, practically, presents on a golden plate all that a person can dream of having. When misused power justifies any kind of wrongdoing provided that what is wanted is securely acquired.
Now, what is the real intention of being in and having power? To attain what I want or crave for at all costs? Or else to let truth and compassion fashion me in what is authentically beautiful, true and good in order that I promote this liberating spirit among those whom I was called to serve when putting on the apron of power? Seen from this perspective, I tend to heartily agree with what Mahatma Gandhi said: “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace”.
And not just the world as such but, first and foremost, myself! Yes! The day I let the power of love takes over in my life that will be the day when I can show that love for others. Having said that, to have this kind of love I need to restrain myself from what is evil. As a priest and a consecrated person to God I see no better way of knowing what is the evil that actually is impeding me from being compassionate and loving as the admonition Jesus himself gives to us, priests and consecrated persons alike, in the Diary of St. Faustina. In fact, in entry 1702 Jesus outlines the cancerous malady which obstructs priests and consecrated persons from really being God’s merciful icons in our shattered world.
I will allow convents and churches to be destroyed. I answered, “Jesus, but there are so many souls praising You in convents.” The Lord answered, That praise wounds My Heart, because love has been banished from convents. Souls without love and without devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive: My Heart cannot bear this. All the graces that I pour out upon them flow off them as off the face of a rock. I cannot stand them, because they are neither good or bad. I called convents into being to sanctify the world through them. It is from them that a powerful flame of love and sacrifice should burst forth. And if they do not repent and become enkindled by their first love, I will deliver them over to the fate of this world…
Which is the cause for this pride, arrogance, deceit, hypocrisy and lukewarmness which ruins not simply us priests and consecrated people but also us, the men and women in the street? Pride! Looking at the Franciscan sources I immediately encounter the famous Legend of Three Companions which clearly demonstrates Francis’ pride before his conversion.
“When he grew up, endowed with clever natural abilities, he pursued his father’s profession, that of a merchant. He was, however, vastly different from his father. He was more good-natured and generous, given over to revelry and song with his friends, roaming day and night throughout the city of Assisi. He was most lavish in spending, so much so that all he could possess and earn was squandered on feasting and other pursuits… He was lavish, indeed prodigal, not only in these things, but also in spending more money on expensive clothes than his social position warranted. He was so vain in seeking to stand out that sometimes he had the most expensive material sewed together with the cheapest cloth onto the same garment”.
Francis’ showy character prior to his conversion allowed him to portray an image that he did not have before. Pride made him a prisoner of the impression he wanted to give and gravely hampered him from being his true self. When he was converted because he had the guts of approaching the lepers and serve them, Francis’ egoism, arrogance, lukewarmness to God, hypocrisy and deceit started to wane furthermore. In a converted Francis to Christ we notice a man who gives over, in full gratitude and trust, his faulty will to God so that his will becomes united and redeemed in and by God’s holy will.
How powerful is the wisdom which we come across in Francis’ Second Admonition! “The Lord God said to Adam: ‘Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat. But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat.’ Adam therefore might eat of every tree of paradise and so long as he did not offend against obedience he did not sin. For one eats of the tree of knowledge of good who appropriates to himself his own will and prides himself upon the goods which the Lord publishes and works in him and thus, through the suggestion of the devil and transgression of the commandment, he finds the apple of the knowledge of evil; wherefore, it behooves that he suffer punishment”.
In his unconfirmed first rule, also known in Latin as Regula Non Bullata, St. Francis wisely writes in its seventeenth chapter:
“All the brothers, however, should preach by their actions. And no minister or preacher should appropriate to himself the ministry to the brothers or the office of preaching, but at whatever hour he is enjoined to do so he should give up his office without any objection. And so, by the love which is God I entreat all my brothers, preachers, speakers and workers, whether cleric or lay, to strive to be humble in all things, not to pride themselves nor to rejoice in themselves nor to praise their (own) good words and works, not even the good which God sometimes does, says, or works in them and through them, according to what the Lord says: ‘Nonetheless, do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you’ (Lk. 10:20)”.
For Francis attaining God’s power, in other words, totally espousing Christ’s being who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,
and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8), is solely accomplished by not priding oneself. In practice, this means not praising oneself for the good words and works God does through him and her but by attributing all this good to the Author of every good.
Am I really conscious that every good that I make is not I who does it but God’s grace which is working in and through me? Do I ever think about how I was in the past before Jesus found me and started his patient job of transforming me in Him? Am I courageous enough to admit my sins, shortcomings and weakness?
Since the Almighty God became one of us, in the greatest and humblest act of the incarnation, only those who are humble before Him can really become like Him! Hence, humility is the key to attain God’s power!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap