Leadership and Authority
Homily for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Issues of leadership and authority are at the forefront in today’s Scripture readings.
Throughout God’s plan of salvation, patriarchs and matriarchs, both male and female judges, kings and queens, as well as prophets have arisen among God’s people. Over time, the children of Israel have had their problems with leadership and with authority. Though they claim that they want good leaders (often citing the example of King David), accepting the right leader is only half the issue. For their part, the people need to listen to the leaders sent by God and to accept their authority. The prophet Hosea speaks today of a people who reject God and make idols to their own destruction.
When God sends his Son, Israel is under foreign occupation. The religious leaders of Israel are often the pawns of the ruling Romans who do not have the best interests of God’s people in mind. When Jesus begins his ministry, healing diseases and driving out demons, many of the leaders turn against him out of jealousy and cruelty. They even go so far as to accuse Jesus of colluding with demons. They have a problem with authority. As a result, they also have a leadership problem.
When Jesus looks at the people who are coming to him, his heart is moved with pity at the sight of sheep without a shepherd, troubled and abandoned, with no one who really cares. Jesus tells his disciples that the need for good shepherds is great. “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.”
I fear that the greatest idol of the 21st century is none other than one’s own ego. We live in a culture that celebrates the celebrities in our midst. Like the scribes and Pharisees of old, jealousy and cruelty have become rampant in our society. The call that Jesus issued to his disciples is very much our own call, especially those of us who follow the Franciscan way of life. One of the first prayers that I heard as a young seminarian about Francis of Assisi was that God had sent him to the world when the world had grown cold. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, he models for us the love of God for each and every part of God’s creation.
We are called to listen to God as well as varying the compassion that Jesus shows to our brothers and sisters in faith.