Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Leadership
Probably the understatement of the year is to say that leadership is in a state of crisis at whatever level we look - political, commercial, church. But leadership, generally, is only a reflection of the community at large. Today's readings touch on this question of leadership. Today's readings refer to this role of leadership within, and by, the people of God.

Isaiah 22: 19-23: Isaiah draws attention to the character who, through default, was deprived of his leadership because he had failed to live up to his responsibilities. He had been given an assignment and had failed and, so, was dismissed from his office.

Romans 11: 33-36: Paul is concerned with the failure of his people, the Jews, to accept the leadership of Christ; but, directed by his great faith, he proclaims that, in God's own good time and place, the plan of salvation will be carried out.

Matthew 16: 13-20: In the Gospel we have the foundations of the structure of teaching authority vested in Peter and, from him, to be transmitted to following generations and preserved for us today in the person of the Pope as the legitimate successor of Peter..

Point 1: One of the favourite indoor sports of people, universally, is to criticise leadership. There is nothing new in this; where people have an option, invariably, they will continue to assess the performance of those exercising leadership and, in due course, bring about a change if not satisfied. We call it 'democracy'! Whether such change is for better or for worse, only time tells. But even when the prospect of change is not readily available, the practice of criticism still goes on, and the Church is no exception.

Point 2: Here, leadership is not immune; unfortunately, many of the complaints are valid - sermons are too long or too dull; many are bad administrators; some are too short-tempered, others are not punctual; others are too worldly because they mix freely while others are too aloof; others are 'boozers' because they enjoy a drink, and others are 'wowsers' because they don't! Well! it probably helps to remember that there is no such thing as the perfect human being - bar one, Jesus - and anyone whose allegiance to the Church depends entirely on the virtue, the intelligence, the professional competence of the clergy, the professed religious or the hierarchy of the Church, or another member of the Church, has truly based his faith on shifting sands. There is no dual standard of morality - one for the clergy and one for others; we are all in there batting under the same rules. It may be expected, legitimately, that par for the course should be achieved more frequently by the leaders; but it must not be forgotten that we are all pilgrims aspiring to greatness, and that most us, most of the time, are substantially less than great.
To complain about the quality of leaders is not a new custom and has been present in the Church from earliest times. Even Christ did not escape! The record shows how He came under fire - wining and dining with disreputable types to the exclusion of the 'social' leaders! [Luke 7:37] And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.
She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him - that she is a sinner." And Peter, too, found himself in a no win situation being criticised by Paul for not allowing uncircumcised people to become Christians; and then by the Jewish converts for allowing Gentiles to be baptised. As they say -'Damned if you do! And damned if you don't"!

Conclusion: No one argues that anyone should be exempt from criticism; but it can be expected that the criticism offered should be of a constructive form. Through Baptism, every Christian is called to be an example to others; failure to do so exposes one to criticism. With this in mind we should be constantly asking ourselves -"What impression of Christianity are people getting from the life I lead"? If it is not one of openness and fairness, honesty and fidelity, a full life in which one recognises an independent and ultimate judgement, then we need to look to our laurels. [Matt 5:15] "No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house". To do so, however, is to invite criticism.

Scriptural reference: For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." [Mat 11:18-19]