Lagura: Ambition in the light of Christ-A A +A
Saturday, October 20, 2012
“When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept, ambition should be made of a sterner stuff….As he was valiant, I honor him, but as he was ambitious I slew him.” - Marcus Antonius’ oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar.
The brothers, James and John, were not only hot-headed (called Boanerges, that is sons of thunder; they pleaded with Jesus to rain down fire and brimstone on the Samaritans who were blocking their way to Jerusalem. Mark 3:17) The two were also ambitious, for they sought to be in positions of power once the kingdom Jesus would be established. Naturally their ambition caused bickering and dissension among the other chosen disciples. Envy and resentment against the two brothers were stoked.
Manifesting the attitude of the perfect gentleman and the ideal of a true leader, Jesus immediately quelled the “intramurals” among his chosen twelve not by suppressing their all too human ambition or scolding the two brothers for their desire to hold positions of authority. Rather, Jesus channeled the legitimate desire to be the best, a desire that lurks in the hearts of all. He revealed to them the secret of attaining true greatness by directing their ambitious thoughts to a higher goal none of them had ever thought of before.
Some people long for positions of authority for the prestige, power and fortune they may give. But once in power, they control, they dominate and thereby cause so much misery in people’s lives. Many times, misery in their own lives too. At the bottom of such lust for power and authority is a human weakness, for only the weak exercise power of others as the measure of their greatness.
Others, to the joy of their subjects exercise authority and power by accompanying, listening, and giving freedom and confidence to their subjects. In a word, to use a much abused term, empowering them.
Christ shows yet another way of exercising power and authority that is silent, loving, hidden. It is the authority seen in a good shepherd and a loving parent who wait, build confidence and at times hover night and day at the bedside of an ailing child. It is the authority of a good a.k.a. prodigal father or mother, for that matter, who awaits with fervent hope the return of a child gone astray.
In a word, this is the authority, the power of one who is ready to serve others forgetting often one’s own comfort Jesus taught his disciples that authority over others should not be given to those who seek it for their own benefit, but only to those who have shown that they are ready to serve others. In this way, positions of authority or the exercise of power in God’s kingdom will mirror the gentle ways of Christ who led but did not dominate or control.
Christ as our leader invited and appealed to people but never forced them to come to him. He threatened, but showed mercy without end. Jesus exercise of power and authority mirrors that of his Father’s.
As superior general of the Society of the Divine Word Fr. Antonio “Tony” Pernia recalls that in leading his confreres many times he had to pray that God touch their hearts and thereby listen, then obey.
Ambition in the Christian fashion truly demands that those aspiring for positions of leadership “should be made of a sterner stuff.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 21, 2012.