Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Leadership
At some level or another, with rare exception, we are all called upon to exercise leadership - within the family; in our profession; within the community. It may be of help to look at some of the qualities that go into good Christian leadership. Obviously, in such a short address, it is not possible to cover the subject comprehensively, but the readings to-day suggest a couple of considerations worth noting.

Zechariah 9; 9-10: The reading from Zechariah emphasises that the nature of the person who would lead and inspire would be a gentle and peaceful type under whose guidance people would lose all sense of anxiety. Such would be the Messiah who would restore peace and justice to Jerusalem.

Romans 8,9; 11-13: St. Paul refers to the inner conflict between flesh and spirit that is in every person. This conflict, he says, can only be resolved by a strong sense of discipline and a high degree of motivation - the qualities of true leadership..

Matthew 11, 25-30: In the Gospel, we see Christ being presented as the Motivator par excellence. His motivation is drawn from his understanding of the extraordinary relationship between God the Father and Himself; and the mission that he has been given endowed Him with a strong sense of leadership.

Point 1: The first requirement of Christian leadership is personal involvement - a "do as I do" approach rather than a "do as I say" attitude. History is full of accounts of "armchair generals"; but the ones who are best remembered are those who came through the ranks and were close to their troops when the going was tough. Christ had a good deal to say about those who make the rules and do not keep them! His scathing criticism of the Jewish leaders who conjured up endless rules to be obeyed by their followers whilst they themselves went unfettered is well documented throughout the Gospels - "Hypocrites ", "vipers" and "whitened sepulchres" are amongst the terms that he used. This need to be close to those who are following is very apparent in the relationship between parent and family. Too frequently we hear the comment - "I can't talk to him or her", as the case may be; and it is not only the parents speaking of their sons and daughters, but vice versa, that this happens. Both sides have this problem of communicating because the importance of encouraging and being encouraged has been over-looked in exercising leadership.

Point 2: There is another, broader issue involved in leadership that we can only touch on here, namely, discipline. When other forms of encouragement fail - what do we do? Do we bluster and bellow and carry on as though our homes were in trees? For those who accept that physical punishment is‚‚  acceptable, it should never be administered by an angry mentor.‚‚  Or is there a lesson to be learned from to-day's readings? The type of leadership touched on in these readings reveal strong motivation. They are "doers" of the word and not merely "sayers". Because they are well informed, the leaders cited are able to exercise the discipline necessary to achieve their goals. Some of our sporting heroes are good examples of motivation and discipline undertaken to become leaders in their respective fields. This need for a sense of discipline is suggested by St. Paul in the reading from the epistle.

Conclusion: In particular, Christ exemplified this sense of leadership by extending encouragement and comfort to those who came to Him for guidance. Whilst recognising his power, he did not throw his weight around. At all times he set himself to command respect; he never demanded it. He was ready to meet people at their own level, to share their sorrows and difficulties; he welcomed all regardless of physical or mental attitudes - he rode a donkey, symbol of peace and humility since it was associated with the ordinary everyday tasks of carrying burdens, rather than choosing the horse associated with the nobility and status of kings and generals accustomed to controlling and punishing people.

Scriptural reference:" But not so amongst you; rather the greatest amongst you must become like the youngest; and the leader like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? I am among you as one who serves? (Luke 22: 26-27)