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.”
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.