Saint Francis Borgia – Readings

Commentary on Philippians 3:8-14; Ps 117; Mark 10:42-45

In the Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus speaks of true greatness. It comes in the passage where Jesus, after predicting his coming suffering, death and resurrection for the third time, is asked by James and John for special places of privilege in his “Kingdom”. Jesus tells them they do not know what they are asking. And, when the other disciples hear about the request, they become very angry, as if they felt that James and John had been trying ‘to pull a fast one’ behind their backs.
It is then that Jesus takes them all aside and tells them where true greatness can be found. In the world generally, he tells, them the great are thought to be those who wield power and authority and status over others.
But this is not to be the case among the followers of Jesus. If anyone of them wants to be great then they must become the servant of all the others. To serve is not to wield power but to seek the good of the other, to be sensitive to the needs of the other. And Jesus uses his own lifestyle as an example. Although he is the Son of God, although he is their Master and Lord, he came not to be served by them or anyone else but to serve, to seek the good of every single person. And we serve Jesus best by imitating his example.
The reading is very applicable to Francis Borgia. Here was a man from one of the most aristocratic families of Europe, who could have enjoyed every privilege, who could have had an army of servants at his beck and call. But he put all that aside to become a simple priest in the Society of Jesus. But even when he was called on to take positions of high authority in the Society, including being its superior general, he still saw his responsibility to be one of service and simple living. 

Similarly, in the First Reading from the Letter to the Philippians Paul tells his readers that whatever privileges he ever had in the past (and he had been a senior Pharisee), he regarded them all as so much rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ as his Lord. “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish [the Greek is a much stronger term].”
Francis Borgia, too, laid aside power and privileges that many others would have envied. For him, it was an exchange he would never regret. His life in Christ brought riches that money and status could never buy. We might ask ourselves what are our most previous values. For us, what is the most precious thing in life? Are with Paul and Francis or have we other goals?

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