Monday, January 24, 2011

Gift of Power

The columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times starts his column with a story of a king who gives two of his retainers a seemingly simple task. He tells them that the neighboring king has invented a knife and has given him two for his use. He wants each of them to take a knife and after a month explain to  him how it is to be used.

One retainer tells him that because the knife is very sharp and pointed, it can be used to threaten and to kill. The other retainer tells him that because it is sharp and pointed, it can be used to cut and trim food before eating.

The columnist says that whatever we have can always be used well and that should be the first intention that comes to mind. Even something sharp and pointed can always be used for the benefit of others.

This story of the knives was mentioned to introduce the controversial subject of authority and power as experienced by most of us in the smallest of groupings in the many different communities to which we belong. Those in a leadership role responsible for these communities have  been given authority and power so that these groups can operate more efficiently.  However, when this mandate is abused and  not used according to right reason, the lives of people are  threatened, and the  spirit of the individual dies.

If we are in a position to receive this 'sharp and pointed'  power and authority as a gift, how should it be used? It will depend on our understanding and the value we place on the life we enjoy. When we are at peace this will go out to others and prevents us from abusing what we have received.

Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Although he had problems with the power of the Catholic Church--and it must have  bothered him greatly--he attended Mass regularly and received the last Sacraments before his death. He knew intimately how easily the gift of power could be abused, but also greatly appreciated its potential for serving the good of mankind.

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