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15 Oct

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lording It Over?

“It shall not be so among you.” These words to the Twelve, those already chosen and seasoned in what it means to be followers of Jesus, refer to their recurring need to vie for positions, to be privileged to sit in positions of closeness to Jesus. Jesus describes them as like “those who lord it over others.” To lord it over means to domineer over, to act arrogantly toward another, to believe as if one is more important than someone else and has a right to tell that person what to do. Arrogant superiority is justified for some by virtue of some achievement, advantage, good fortune.

We have a hard time with privilege, don’t we? Even in roles, relationships, and structures within our families, our workplace, our relationships with others, and even in the Church, we can experience domineering and controlling that comes from others.

Jesus is direct: “It shall not be so among you.” In our daily experience, where do we see “lording over” occurring? When do we experience arrogant superiority in our own lives? What do we feel when someone acts that way towards us? When do we act that way to someone else? Are there particular circumstances that tempt us to “lord it over” someone else? What do we do when that happens?

Jesus teaches that we will find honor in serving each other, in not seeking positions of superiority or power over others. Jesus washed feet, ate with and spoke to outcasts, healed in defiance of authority. Jesus did not model superiority, even as he had power. Rather he served!

Pope Francis describes what happens to us when we serve others:

Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because “it tastes like a cross.” But, as our care and availability toward others grow, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve the more we are aware of God’s presence.

Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion, and we, in turn, discover God’s love and embrace there.

The true measure of success is what you give, not what you have.

Pope Francis, September 19, 2021

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