The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

A common problem people of means share is dealing with the spiritual dangers of power, prestige, and possessions. Each can be used to manipulate and control others for selfish advantage, thus starving love relationships and communion with God. What are often vices, however, can be turned into virtues.

I had the privilege years ago of officiating at the funeral of one of New Mexico's most admired civil rights lawyers. A tireless advocate for the rights of all people, he defended Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, Anglos, and the disadvantaged of any background. He had a generous spirit, striving throughout his professional career to uphold the helpless and to win liberty for the falsely accused.

I tell you about James Toulouse because he is an example to me of one who turned the potential vices of "power, prestige, and possessions" into virtues. His personal power and charisma were used to open doors of opportunity for the needy. He did not build a selfish empire, but gave his life away to family, friends, colleagues, minorities, the helpless, the church, and an almost endless list of beneficiaries. He died in debt having given away millions.

We know of other people who have used their influence in altruistic ways. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was certainly powerful in her ability to draw attention to the needs of the poor. She had the prestige of a saint and after her death was declared one. She was a multimillionaire considering all the gifts received for her causes. Yet, she used her gifts and talents for the sake of Love and gave her life away.

Jesus is the finest example of self-giving love. He lived among us to absorb into his life all the troubles suffered by Adam and Eve and every generation since the beginning of time. He drew all our weaknesses into his own life and offered himself in love to his heavenly Father. His reward was a cross. His gift to us was victory over sin and death.

During this holy season of Lent as we examine our lives, let us move beyond selfish emotions and indulgences to a place where our hearts are held in the truth of our Lord's love. That is a place where giving away love is the only way to know it and to keep it.