Today’s reflection is on the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday March 3, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
I have often heard the axiom, “It’s like the blind leading the blind with that guy!” and now I know where it comes from—my man and yours, Jesus. Today’s Gospel is a real challenge for those who are charged with leadership, or those who aspire to it. Jesus seems to be saying, “Until you get your own problems resolved, don’t try to help others with theirs!” Are all those with “room to improve” hypocrites unfit for leadership? If so, who then is fit to lead? Certainly not me!
When I was in the Marines, it was quite common for a brand-new lieutenant, (also known as a “butter bar” (because of the single gold bar that served as rank) to come in to our unit and start throwing his weight around. The only thing he had was college, some officer courses, and rank—but man did he want to lead! Sadly, those officers did not often earn the respect of those under their charge. The best officers were “mustangs,” those who had begun their career as enlisted, worked their way through the ranks, and then were commissioned to lead. They knew the mission, knew the men, and we’re great leaders who lead by example and met with their men often.
I don’t think education is much different. The great administrators have taught for well over a decade, have a wealth of experience, know the kids, know the educational system, and are called to greater leadership within it. I think a lot of organizations have the same sort of leadership realities. If you’ve never been on a boat—you probably shouldn’t be the captain, right? But what if you are the captain, or what if you are called to lead? Are we a hypocrite with a huge beam in our eye? I think Jesus has much to offer leaders today.
Jesus doesn’t start with outside, but rather he starts from within. The last lines in today’s Gospel provide the key. He says, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” The good leader recognizes three things: 1. He is himself still and always a learner in need of self-reflection, growth, and improvement, 2. He doesn’t have to have all the answers, but does need to have eyes to see and ears to hear the wisdom of the community that he serves, and 3. The call to leadership is itself a call from God to serve God’s people in the world.
Jesus reminds his disciples that, “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” The word disciple means, “learner,” which is to say that even those in leadership roles must recognize and submit to the leadership of Jesus Christ first—and seek to “be like his teacher.” Jesus led with mercy, love, goodness, and truth—and so should we.
Jesus says, “when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” We are not, while in this earthly body, yet fully trained. Every leader recognizes that he is himself in constant need of formation and that God’s formation comes from Jesus himself AND those in whom His Spirit resides. Great leaders call upon those around them for the advice that God desires them to know. Great leaders don’t lock themselves in a closet and close themselves off to advice, correction, and the inspiration of others. The Spirit speaks through signs, symbols, leaders, followers, and even our children. Do we have ears to hear?
Finally, Romans 13:1 makes it very clear, “…there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.” Great leaders are humble instruments of God’s life and love in the world. They are called, with fear and trembling, to think, act, and lead in a way that honors God in the world. The Kingdom of God grows because God’s faithful servants, plant and water (1COR3:6), and allow God’s kingdom to grow through them.
I think it’s true that God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. But those whom he calls must know first of all that they are but worthless servants doing only what their Lord has called them to do. (LK 17:10) We are not hypocrites who strive mightily—though imperfectly—to grow in holiness as we lead others in our families, workplaces and world. If we are always open to humbly acknowledge our imperfections then we can, as broken brothers, help others like us to grow in holiness. We are not hypocrites if we humbly seek the wisdom of the community in our decision-making. And we are not hypocrites if we remain always open to God’s leadership first—God’s will first in our life.
We will not be blind, but will have God’s eyes, God’s heart, God’s hands, and God’s Church to see clearly as we exercise our leadership role. We will indeed be a good tree that produces good fruit in abundance. A tree that produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (GAL 5:22-23). That’s a great leader! That’s a Godly leader. Lead on good Christian soldier. Lead on.
Am I a leader who knows that all leadership ultimately comes from God–and that I am NOT number one, but always number two?
Do others hear God’s voice, experience God’s love, and see God’s actions through my leadership ability and style?
Do I create a division between my own work life and Christian life? Am I a Christian leading in the world, or a just a worldly leader who goes to Church on Sunday?