This is the last week of Lent, and I’m glad. Yes, it’s been challenging—and yet also “fruitful”—to pray for Putin and Trump. It’s generated some interesting discussions that have brought me and others new insights. I’m also ready to move on. I’m ready to be thinking about something besides my powerlessness in the face of continued war and political turmoil.

Yet next week is Holy Week, where even Jesus proves to be powerless. Yes, he could have made different choices, but once he embraced the path that led to his execution, it led to his powerlessness. Once we make particular decisions and commit to certain paths, consequences eventually take over.

In his book on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ Plan for a New World, Richard Rohr writes:

We in our time have to find our way to disestablish ourselves, to identify with our powerlessness instead of our power, our dependence instead of our independence, and our communion instead of our individualism. Unless we understand that, the Sermon on the Mount isn’t going to make any sense. . . .

The necessary starting point for building the bridge is from the side of powerlessness, either political powerlessness or your personal powerlessness, preferably both.[1]

Power is everything in most cultures. Therefore, this is one of the ways that Jesus’ message is intensely countercultural, no matter our culture or context. Here in America, independence and individualism are prized and praised. Being dependent on others is seen as a shortcoming, a failure. No wonder we have misunderstood and misappropriated so many of Jesus’ teachings.

It’s confusing, even confounding, for us to choose powerlessness. In Lent, by giving up something or taking on a seemingly impossible task like praying for those who hurt us and others, we get a sense of how hard it was for people to understand and embrace Jesus’ message.

Personally, it also helps me, at least slightly, to hold the tension of my political and personal powerlessness in the face of actions taken by Putin and Trump. They don’t care about me or what I think or say. They would disregard any letter I sent or plea I made. Only divine intervention is likely to make a difference for these bitter old men.

My only recourse is to the most subversive messenger of all: the Holy Trinity. God in Jesus taught us to embrace our powerlessness and not to lose hope. They then gave us the Holy Spirit to inspire and encourage us in our prayers. As Jesus taught, I am the light of the world, and you are too. We have a job to do.

So I likely will continue, periodically, to pray for these frail and frightened old men who cling to power because they cannot find hope. I pray that they can find hope in Christ and release their need for power. In my powerlessness, I will work to be light and bring hope, just as Jesus taught. Will you join me?

[1] Richard Rohr, Jesus’ Plan for a New World (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1996), 54–55.

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