True Authority

True Authority

The reflection for Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent from Lent With St. Francis seems appropriate as we await the beginning of the papal conclave.


“It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”

—Matthew 20:26–28

As we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus had to deal with his followers jockeying for positions of power. He tries to show them how the Christian life must be different from that of the pagan rulers around them—and indeed from some of the religious structures in his tradition.

Francis emphasized this point too, writing it into his Rule and even ceding leadership of his own community to others.

All the friars without exception are forbidden to wield power or authority, particularly over one another. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them (Matthew 20:25). That is not to be the way among the friars. Among them whoever wishes to become great shall be their servant, and whoever wishes to be first shall be their minister (Matthew 28:26–28), and he is their servant. Let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest (Luke 22:26).

Servant leadership continues to be a difficult concept, perhaps because so many business and political organizations elevate power and authority to ends in themselves. Jesus makes it clear that if we follow his way, we need to embrace his model of humility. The best way to do this is to remind ourselves that all power belongs only to God.



About the Author

Diane M. Houdek is Digital Editor for Franciscan Media as well as an editor in the book department. She is the author of Lent with St. Francis, Advent with St. Francis and Pope Francis and Our Call to Joy. She is an avid knitter and spinner and shares her home with four rambunctious dogs. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she has tried her hand at urban farming and a host of other pursuits and hobbies.
  • Bill

    Spiritual and/or ecclestastical authority has always been a hot button topic among Christians of every stripe and persuasion. Whether pope, bishop, priest, or protestant ministers and pastors, the issue of authority has either unified or ostracized the people of God on earth. I, for one, base my opinion on authority on the plain directive of the Lord Himself: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18. That settles it for me. Christ is the Lord of all, and all mankind is subject to Him. He raises up rulers in the church and He deposes them also. I fear God much more than I do any man in the church, from the highest to the lowest. Thank God that all authority is in Christ’s hands, not any man.