Who are the Genuine Leaders Among Us?

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

JEREMIAH 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The LORD our justice.”

EPHESIANS 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

MARK 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

I can’t help but feel disappointed, and perhaps disillusioned, when I look at the leaders of some of the most powerful nations on earth. Many lead with might rather than compassion and equity; placing bottom line, or even self-interests, rather than human dignity at the heart of their policies. These policies often condemn the most vulnerable among society (the homeless, unemployed or underemployed, single parents, Indigenous peoples, persons of colour, women, children, elderlies, those struggling with addictions and mental health issues, migrants, refugees, etc.) to undue hardships and hopelessness. Such leaders build walls rather than bridges; provoke war and hatred rather than peace and reconciliation. Are there any genuine leaders among us?

This Sunday’s readings shine a spotlight on our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, particularly, how he leads and why he leads the way he does. In the first reading, Jeremiah reminds us that our Good Shepherd is sent to restore “justice and righteousness” so that “Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety” (Jer 23:5,6). The Church, according to the Catechism, is the “new Israel” (ref. CCC 877). Therefore, Christ comes so that we may be saved. Indeed, Christ is our genuine shepherd who gathers rather than scatters; reigns with “compassion” (Mk 6:34), “justice and righteousness” (Jer 23:5); breaks down “the dividing wall” (Eph 2:14); brings peace and reconciliation (ref. Eph 2:15,16).

In the first reading, God condemns “the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” (Jer 23:1). Good leaders, on the contrary, facilitate unity by gathering the nation into one fold so that the flock “shall not fear any longer” and “shall be fruitful and multiply” (Jer 23:3, 4). Christ is the “righteous branch” from David who rules justly and wisely, and “shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer 23:5). He also “leads [us] in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though [we] walk through the darkest valley, [we] fear no evil” (Ps 23:3-4). It is, indeed, God’s loving intention that everyone, not just the rich, the famed, and the powerful, should be able to live peacefully, freely, and abundantly under the leadership of the Good Shepherd. As Christ is our leader, each of us is also called to lead the way He leads, that is, lovingly, wisely and justly.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes Christ as “our peace”, whose mission is to break down the “dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Eph 2:14). Peace seems like a good benchmark by which we assess our decisions and actions. How often have we seen political decisions that divide and even provoke hostility among citizens and nations? For instance, the Americans are experiencing deep rifts and divisions due to the policies of the current administration. Building a wall or placing parents and children in separate detention centres may appear to be effective short-term measures; however, these measures are short-sighted in scope, divisive in nature, and most importantly, lack empathy and compassion. Further, on a personal level, do our decisions and actions reconcile or divide; bring peace or hostility? What would our Good Shepherd do?

Further, Jesus is portrayed as attentive, caring, and compassionate in Mark’s Gospel. Like an attentive and caring parent or friend, Jesus, notices how exhausted his Apostles are after their mission, gently invites them to “come away to a deserted place … and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). Indeed, the Good Shepherd leads those who labour for His sake to “lie down in green pastures … beside still waters” and restore their souls. (Ps 23:2-3). A good leader recognizes that there’s a time to labour and there’s a time to rest. On the contrary, many secular leaders often push their citizens to the ultimate limit, disregarding the dire consequences resulted from their decisions.

Finally, a genuine leader commands trust. We know that Jesus, our Good Shepherd is trustworthy because he is one of us! He accepts his mission of love to live and journey with us, and even sacrifices his own life for us, in order to reconcile us to God. As the Psalmist proclaims, we can walk confidently without fear because our Good Shepherd is our “rod” and “staff”, guiding us every step of the way (Ps 23:4).

Returning to the initial question: Are there any genuine leaders among us? The answer is a resounding “yes”! Christ calls each one of us to lead according to the richness of gifts given to us. Indeed, he has already provided a roadmap to genuine leadership: A genuine leader gathers rather than scatters; brings peace instead of hatred; and leads with compassion.

Posted: July 22, 2018

Susanna Mak

 
Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.


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