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December 22: Power, Prestige and Possessions

Posted by Richard Rohr, OFM on 12/22/19 12:00 AM

Advent with Richard Rohr…[God] has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
—Luke 1:51-53

In Jesus’s consistent teaching and in Mary’s great Magnificat, both say that there are three major obstacles to the coming of the reign of God. I call them the three P’s: power, prestige and possessions. Mary refers to them as “the proud,” “the mighty on thrones” and “the rich.” These, she says, God is “routing,” “pulling down” and “sending away empty.” (This great prayer of Mary was considered so subversive by the Argentine government that they banned it from public recitation at protest marches!) We can easily take nine-tenths of Jesus’s teachings and very clearly align it under one of those three categories: Our attachments to power, prestige and possessions are obstacles to God’s coming. Why could we not see that?

For some reason, we tend to localize evil in our bodies more than in our mind, heart and spirit. We are terribly ashamed of our embodiment, and our shame is invariably located in addictive things like drinking, drugs, sex, overeating and body image. Maybe that is why God had to become a body in Jesus! God needed to tell us it was good to be a human body. That is central and pivotal to the Christmas message.

I’m surely for a proper sexual morality, but Jesus never once says this is the core issue. They tend to be sins of weakness or addiction, more than malice or power. In fact, Jesus says that the “prostitutes are getting into the kingdom of God” before some of us who have made easy bedfellows with power, prestige and possessions (Matthew 21:31). These are the attitudes that numb the heart, allow us to make very egocentric judgments and dull our general spiritual perception. For some reason, much of Christian history has chosen not to see this, and we have localized evil in other places than Jesus did. It is the sins of our mind and heart (see Matthew 5:20–48) that make the Big Picture almost impossible to see. This teaching is hidden in plain sight, but once we see it in text after text, we cannot any longer unsee it. Mary seems to have seen long, deep and lovely.

 

Reflect

How are power, prestige and possessions preventing you from entering the kingdom?


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Topics: Richard Rohr, Advent, Christmas, Advent 2019