Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
Take a moment to look at your fingers. Have you ever wondered why the thumb is separate from the four fingers of your hand?
The story is told of five brothers and sisters. The parents entrusted to the eldest all their wealth and resources with the instruction that he take care of his brothers and sisters in their absence. But as the story goes, the eldest appropriated all of what was left by their parents for himself and did not share with his brothers and sisters. Instead of serving them, he lorded over them. The selfishness of the thumb angered his brothers and sisters. The four retaliated by distancing themselves from him.
Yes, the thumb had all the wealth, but he lost his brothers and sisters.
Well, anyway, these are about wealth and money which separate us from one another and from God. Jesus in today’s gospel has announced again about his coming passion and death as part of his mission. But this does not register in the minds of his twelve apostles. They are thinking of the idea that when Jesus rules the world and since they are his associates, Jesus will select them as His ministers of different important positions in His kingdom. Jesus turns his apostles’ lack of comprehension into an occasion to focus on another essential aspect of discipleship. His disciples are not called to a position of power, but of service. They are not called to a position to rule over other people but a leadership through service which is popularly known today in the management world as leadership by example. Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant…For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…”, (vv.43-45).
Let us look at our country today. We have called ourselves as “Pearl of the Orient” (Perlas ng Silanganan) as far as history books are concerned. I have known this term way back in the elementary days. My elementary teacher would always inculcate this title into our young minds that we are like this. Anyway and undoubtedly, we are blessed with so many natural resources and with beautiful human traits and one them is our being hospitable by which U.S. President, George W. Bush had mentioned in his speech at the Philippine Congress during his state visit for eight hours last October 18, 2003. With the eyes of faith we can also see the wonderful providence of God who has chosen us to be a predominantly Catholic country in Asia. “Indeed more than half of all the Christians in Asia are to be found in the Philippines,” Bishop Bacani said in his homily. We can say that our country is a really a “lupang hinirang” (chosen land).
But even if we are blessed with natural resources, people have been reduced to poverty. According to a latest survey that 62% said that they are poor (2003, Pulse Asia). We have polluted our land. We destroy our beautiful forest and many of our brothers and sisters are working abroad because we are sinking deeper into poverty.
Why we become like this? The answer is not simple. “But certainly,” according to Bishop Bacani, “a big part of the answer is the kind of leaders we have been having in this Christian country, leaders who have often been un-Christian in their exercise of leadership, corrupt leadership.” Look at how they behave after being elected by us or appointed to high office. They are the big bosses before whom one must pay difference and who publicize their good deeds (“This is a project of Senator…”). How far our leaders have been from Christ, the model of all Christian leaders.
All over the world have a game called “Follow the Leader.” A stronger boy usually goes ahead and does all kinds of hard things and his followers must do the same. He may swim a stream or jump across the ditch or climb a tree. The followers who fail are laughed at and made fun of.
“In life we are all followers,” according to Fr. Frank Mihalic, SVD. Little girls imitate their mothers in cooking, gardening and tending children. A boy digs, shoots, paddles and walks like his father does. It is a law of life that 85% of what we learn, we learn from sight. We do not pick up skills from words but from deeds we see. We are born imitators but unfortunately, also of evil.
In every country, young people and the not so young, imitate the dress and speech and hairdo of sports or movie heroes. Why do so many of us wear the same sorts of jeans and blouses? It is because we see our heroes and heroines doing it. It is the “Follow the Leader” game all over again.
That is why it is very important for leaders to set the example for people around them. The leaders like our parents, church leaders, government officials and those who hold an office, are the heroes and heroines of people. They are special in the eyes of many of the people. People look up to them, watch and imitate them all the times and always. In other words, it is a leadership by example.
Because of this leaders must be sure that they do not say one thing and do the opposite. Whether we like it or not, we who are aiming to serve God in a special way are people whom others look up to and admire. If we can honestly stand up and say: “Do what I do! Follow me!” then we are on the road to heaven for sure and congratulations!
To end this, for us to reflect on leadership by example, a noted Italian sociologist Francis Alberoni in his “Art of Commanding,” listed the qualities of a true gifted leader: “inspiration, humility, a spirit of service, serenity, good example, determination, availability and the capacity to expend oneself. Such a leader is seen in Jesus who stoops down and wash the feet of his disciples (John 13).
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B