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Be ashamed when tempted to use church for power struggles, pope says

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By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Whenever one is tempted to use the church for pursuing personal ambitions or to be arrogant, pray to feel ashamed, Pope Francis said.

When the competitive bug strikes, reflect whether one can “see my Lord on the cross” and still be capable of wanting “to use the Lord for moving up” the ladder of success, he said Feb. 21 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“May the Lord give us the grace of shame, that holy embarrassment — when we find ourselves in that situation, with that temptation,” he said.

In his homily, the pope looked at the day’s Gospel reading (Mk 9:30-37) in which the disciples were arguing among themselves on the way to Capernaum about “who was the greatest.” When Jesus asked them what they were arguing about, “they remained silent.”

“They became silent because they were embarrassed about their discussion,” the pope said.

The disciples “were good people, they wanted to follow the Lord, to serve the Lord. But they didn’t know that the path of service to the Lord wasn’t so easy. It wasn’t like joining a group, a charitable organization, to do good. No. It’s something else and they were afraid of this,” he said.

Laypeople, priests, bishops — everyone is tempted, the pope said. It’s part of being Christian, so whoever wants to serve the Lord had better be prepared to be tempted, he added.

Some of the many ways people may be tempted is to use the church to pursue their personal ambitions, like maneuvering, wrangling, pulling strings or backbiting to lead a church group or a particular parish or diocese, he said.

The desire to be a big shot pushes people along a path of wordiness, which is why people must ask God for “the grace of feeling ashamed when we find ourselves in these situations.”

In the same Gospel account, Jesus is aware of what the disciples argued about and confronts them saying, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

May the Lord protect everyone from “ambition, the worldliness of feeling greater than others,” the pope said, and may he “give us the grace of a child’s simplicity” and see only the path of service.

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