Over the course of their lives, many people will wrestle with their desires for position, power, privilege, and prestige.
These desires, or indeed often ‘drives’, will surface again and again in the journey of life. They are constantly present to us – be it in family settings or in the workplace and in public or community service roles. Parents will need to temper these desires and use them wisely in family relationships and roles, partners will need to exercise them carefully in building their loving relationships, people entrusted with roles of a fiduciary nature have a special obligation to be aware of such drives and to moderate them accordingly.
Such desires are not of themselves wrong, we all seek to enhance our selves and to expand our horizons. The danger lies in those hidden, unreflected, or undisciplined moments in life when needs can overwhelm good judgment and we rush towards something that seems to fill the void we feel. In such moments we can align ourselves with unrestrained desire to self-promote, or to misuse our power, or to be selfish in seeking privilege or act only to win prestige – all at the expense of our better self and the good of others.
On the other hand, a good use of our positions of influence, a ‘shepherd-like’ exercise of one’s personal or institutional power, a service-oriented attitude to the privileges one enjoys and a healthy humility in the face of the prestige afforded to us, are truly gospel responses. For in the vision of Jesus such attitudes and approach to service underpin all our actions. For Jesus generosity and self-sacrifice need to accompany all positions of trust.
Thus, today we read of his commission to the seventy-two. They are truly blessed – indeed they are to be his emissaries, literally sent out ahead of Jesus to represent him and prepare the way for him. The details of their commission are more suited to the life and conditions of first century missionaries in Palestine, and we do not have to imitate those actions – wise as they are. Rather we are invited to imitate the attitudes behind the actions – not seeking our own prestige or privileges, not pursuing only our own agendas and not being weighed down by the trappings of office.
The Lord needs disciples who are discerning, who are capable of carrying out the task of missionary evangelisation, who are capable of humility, self-discipline, and prudential judgements and who bear the peace of Christ within their own self and radiate this same peace to all they encounter.
Jesus needs disciples who are not easily side-tracked or seduced by the ‘trappings’ that accompany one’s role, but rather possess an innate capacity to put others first. Just as he did.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.