McCarthy: The Temptation of Power

By Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

In his final book, The Civilization of Christianity, the biblical scholar, Rev. John L. McKenzie, in order to illuminate the meaning of the temptation that offers to Jesus violent governmental political power, creates a dialogue in the desert between Jesus, called by his Hebrew name, Yeshu, and Satan called by his nickname, Old Nick. It reads in part as follows:
Nick: Yeshu, I have plans for mankind so big you could not understand them, smart as I think you are…[But] it takes time; it takes work and it takes good people; that is why I am here. I want you.

Yeshu: You do not want a simple village carpenter from Nazareth. Whoever came from Nazareth that amounted to anything? If you want a smart Jew, you will find plenty of them in Alexandria or even a few in Jerusalem.

Nick: Do not worry; I can give you anything you need except talent, and you have that from Adonai. Think of it, Yeshu; it is the biggest thing a man can get into, he can do more for more people, and it will last longer than anything else you could do. Yeshu, a man like you ought to think big; I can make it possible for you to do big… You will commit a sin by letting God-given talent rot in this rat hole of Palestine.

Yeshu: And I suppose it will also give me a chance to enrich myself and make the world a better place for me to live in?

Nick: I make opportunities, and it is for you to realize them. People who work for me have to work very hard, and many of them find that success is pleasure enough…

Yeshu: The late king Herod—did he work for you?

Nick: Not one of my outstanding employees—but yes, he did…But I expect far more from you than I got from Herod; he had a bit of a heavy hand—no finesse, shall we say? Augustus (there, Yeshu, was a man of whom I am proud) said that it was better to be Herod’s sow than his son.

Yeshu: Did Herod’s son and grandson work for you too?

Nick: Please do not mention those swine; I got rid of them. I demand a certain level of competence in my employees.

Yeshu: Suppose I did not want to do the kind of work for you which Herod and Augustus did—and I suppose Tiberius, the present Caesar, works for you too?

Nick: He either works for me or he is not Caesar.

Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine) of the Catholic Church. He was formerly a lawyer, university educator and founder and original director of The Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a co-founder of Pax Christi-USA. For over forty years he has directed educational programs and conducted spiritual retreats throughout the world on the issue of the relationship of faith and violence. For more information, go here.

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