Monday, September 04, 2006

22nd Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
Power of God

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Psalm 118; Luke 4:16-30

There has been something of a revolution in international relations theory in recent times. Experts are speaking about the importance of soft power. To quote Harvard Dean, Joseph Nye: Soft power is the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. It differs from hard power, the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will. Hard power works through coercion and inducement, soft power through attraction and seduction. Hard power emphasizes strength, soft power, popularity.

How do these forms of power compare with the power that we find in the readings today?

In the first reading Paul is anxious to emphasize that his preaching is dependent not on the possession of secular philosophical knowledge, but on the power of God. He preaches in weakness, in fear and trembling. And yet, his words have borne fruit. By thus boasting about his own weakness, his own poverty, Paul is actually extolling the marvelous power of God, who works in those who are submissive to God’s will.

The power spoken of by Paul is the same power that animates Jesus in the gospel. This power is able to bring liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and freedom to the downtrodden. But the exercise of this power is not without problems. Although Jesus’ words wins the approval of all, he very quickly provokes anger and resentment. They wish to kill him. But Jesus’ response provides yet another example of how this power of God works. He makes no attempt at coercion or inducement. Neither does he compromise his own message. He simply walks away. And we know the destination towards which he is travels: Calvary and beyond. For he is the crucified Christ in whom Paul boasts. The One in whom the power of God is made manifest among us.

Hard power, soft power, or the power of God? On which do we rely this day?

1 comment:

  1. There is a short article by Joseph S Nye in the S.T. today titled "Winners and losers in the post-Sept 11 era". As Christians we have Christ as our teacher, for the Chinese perhaps an enduring philosophy. Can we akin this to the seamless tomb? No barriers, no boundaries.