Saying Jesus' path is serving others, Pope Francis urged Christians on Tuesday to overcome the lure of worldliness and human ambition and warned against social climbers who are tempted to destroy the other in order to reach the top. His remarks came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.
The Gospel reading where Jesus’ disciples were arguing among themselves over who was the greatest was used by the pope for his reflections about the dangers of power, money, ambition and vanity. He noted that whereas Jesus was warning his disciples about his coming humiliation and death, they were concerned with worldly matters such as who would become the most powerful among them.
In response to the apostles’ arguing, Pope Francis reminded of Jesus' warning to his disciples that "if anyone wishes to be first he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
“Along the path where Jesus shows us to journey, the guiding principle is service. The greatest is the person who serves most, who serves others most, not the person who boasts, who seeks power, money… vanity, pride. No, these people are not the greatest. And this is what happened here with the apostles, even with the mother of John and James, it’s an event that happens every day in the church, in every community. ‘But which of us is the greatest? Who’s in charge?’ Ambitions: there is always this desire to be a social climber, to have power, in every community, parish or institution.”
Pope Francis went on to stress how service is still the church’s message to us nowadays. Whilst the world speaks about who has more power to be in charge, Jesus reminds us that he came amongst us “to serve” and not “to be served.”
“Vanity and power … and how and when I have this worldly desire to seek power, not to serve but to be served and spare no efforts to get there: gossiping, speaking ill of others… Envy and jealousy create this path and they both destroy. And we all know this. This occurs in every institution of the Church: parishes, colleges, other institutions, even in the dioceses … everywhere. There’s this desire for worldliness and this is all about wealth, vanity and pride.”
Reiterating that Jesus came to serve, the pope said Christ has showed us the true path of Christian life: service, humility. He explained that when the great saints spoke of being very sinful, the reason for this was was because they had this worldliness inside them and they had many worldly temptations. None of us, he stressed, can say “I am a holy and pure person.”
“All of us are tempted by these things, we are tempted to destroy the other person in order to climb higher. This is a worldly temptation but one that divides and destroys the church. It is not the spirit of Jesus. It’s wonderful, we can imagine the scene: Jesus who says these words and his disciples who say ‘no, better to not question (him) too much, let’s go ahead,’ his disciples who prefer to argue among themselves over who will be the greatest. We’d do well to think about the many times that we have seen this in the church and about the many times that we ourselves have done this and ask our Lord to show us the way, to understand that love of this world, namely worldliness, is an enemy of God.”