Sixteenth Sunday: Leadership
We human beings have a strong tendency to seeks groups for support and protection. In some ways we are gregarious, although we each have enough individuality to stand apart from the group. Still, because we tend to stay in groups, we recognize the importance of strong leaders for the group. We are attracted by a strong leader just as the people of today's gospel were attracted by Jesus. When we don't have strong leaders, we feel we are floundering, just as the people that Jeremiah was addressing in today's first reading felt they were floundering since their leaders were weak and corrupt.
Now this is not to say that all leaders, even strong leaders, lead in the right direction. Adolph Hitler was a strong leader. So were Charles Mansen and Jim Jones. They led their people to self destruction. If we allow ourselves to be led by someone, we have to be sure that it is in the right direction. We have to be sure that our leaders have the right qualities.
What qualities, then, should we look for in a leader? Today's readings answer this question: 1) a leader must be capable of uniting the people in truth, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians, and 2) a leader must be both strong and compassionate, as the Lord Jesus was.
When we think of leaders, we naturally tend to think about those in the highest echelons of authority: the Holy Father, the leaders of the Church, the president, the leaders of governments throughout the world. By leadership does not stop here. By the grace of the sacrament of confirmation we are all given the responsibility of being leaders in the Church. Through the sacrament of marriage, husbands and wives assume the responsibility of leading their spouses and their children to God. Through he sacrament of Holy Orders, deacons, priests and bishops assume the responsibility of leading in word and sacrament.
We often ask you to pray for your priests. All priests have individual gifts which they must develop in order to serve Christ. The prayers and support of the people are effective in helping the priest develop these gifts. As in all leadership, the priest must reflect Christ in being strong yet compassionate. A priest must stick to the truth even when it is unpopular and inconvenient; yet, he must care for the needs of the people. When in doubt, the priest must simply ask the question, "What would Jesus do in this situation?" The prayers of the people help the priest to ask this question and to find the proper answers to it.
The leadership of a husband and wife in family and in marriage must also combine strength and compassion. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, cannot make demands without recognizing the impact of their decisions upon each other or upon their children. If the goal of marriage is to approach God through giving of oneself to one's spouse and children, then the husband and wife, mother and father must be aware of the needs, physical emotional and spiritual, of their children. As a community we all share in the responsibility to pray for our married couples and families.
The leadership we all share in as confirmed Catholics is directly related to the leadership entrusted to the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday. When the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed Jesus Christ for the first time and allowed the Spirit to speak through them. This is an area where we all need help. We are all tempted to compromise with a society that has rejected Christ instead of proclaim him and his truth. We need to pray for each other that we be compassionate while never deserting the Truth that is Christ.
So, today we pray for all leaders: in the Church, in the world, in our families, among our ordained clergy, and among all the confirmed. we pray that we and all leaders may combine the Christ-like characteristics of being strong and compassionate.