The problem highlighted in the first reading and in the Gospel
can be boiled down to: “power corrupts.”
In the first reading, the priests were playing favorites;
in the Gospel, the Pharisees – who weren’t all priests –
were more interested in accolades
than in really helping people get to heaven.
So when Jesus tells his disciples,
do not be called “rabbi,” “father,” or “master,”
he wasn’t forbidding the use of these words altogether;
rather, he was challenging them to think deeply about their motives.
What did they think it meant for them to be his Apostles?
Other stories in the Gospels tell us what the Apostles were thinking.
At one point, they are debating who among them is the most important.
Another time, the brothers James and John
want to call down fire on a Samaritan town that was unfriendly.
So we have some sense of what might have been going on
in the minds of the Apostles.
Maybe they saw the high priests throwing their weight around,
and given great honor, and they may have thought:
that’s what it will be like for us.
And that idea is what Jesus is shutting down.
Today we welcome two seminarians for the Archdiocese.
They shared a few words before we began Mass,
And you can meet John and Stephen afterward.
I remember when I was first thinking about the priesthood,
it is true that what I focused on
was more of idealized image of the priest.
That’s to be expected.
When boys and young men are thinking about being a priest,
I doubt many dwell on filling out paperwork
or spending time reviewing bids on new phone systems.
There’s no particular glory in making sure the roof doesn’t leak
or in paying the bills – but there is word that describes this: service.
And it fits with calling a priest “Father” –
because these are things a father, a parent, does.
So, while the Lord warns, on the one hand that power corrupts,
On the other hand he tells us, “service saves.”
Thus in the second reading, we have Saint Paul reminding the folks
that he was like a “nursing mother,”
spending himself in order to nourish their faith.
To bring it home: this is not only what my job is as a priest;
it is what our job is as a parish.
Namely, that our parish is a place
where each of us helps one another to grow in faith.
So, for example, we have five hours of confessions each week.
You’ll see in the bulletin that I’d like to add another hour,
but I want your feedback on when would be most helpful.
This week, we have Father Nathan Cromly leading a Parish Mission.
You will like Father Nathan, but much more important,
you will be inspired and challenged.
That’s why we’re having this Mission,
and that’s a reason to join in: to grow in our faith.
For example, this replaces Religious Education on Wednesday,
so I really hope our students – with their parents –
won’t just see it as a “night off” but as a time to grow.
And then, looking ahead to the weekend,
we will have our annual Forty Hours devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
One way to think about our Parish Mission
is that we want Father Nathan to help us hunger and thirst more
to be with Jesus, to be his companion and co-worker.
Then, Forty Hours is our “face time” with the Lord.
In other words, we want Father Nathan to be like Andrew,
who said to Peter, “Come and meet the Messiah.”
I’m sure a lot of us have seen various news items –
from Washington, from the sports world, and from Hollywood –
detailing just how badly power can corrupt.
None of us is really immune.
Pray for me, help me, not to get a big head.
One of the ways that can happen – for me, and for you –
is that we think we have it all figured out. We are in control.
Or, if we don’t have things in hand, we figure it’s on us to fix it.
We’re going to do it our own way.
Instead, take some time this week to sit at the feet of Jesus,
who is the only one who really does have things in control.
He is the one who knows how to put things right –
beginning with us listening to him, and learning from him.
Our Parish Mission, and Forty Hours, are a time for us to do that.