|JOHN 10:11-18 By Fr Joseph Harris, CSSp - May 3|
|2009 - Gospel Meditation|
|Saturday, 02 May 2009 13:45|
I believe that one of the qualities Barack Obama has, which made him attractive to the American people and helped him to win the presidential elections in the United States, was his seeming ability and the desire he had to bring harmony into relations that were frosty at the best.
His appearance at the Summit of the Americas reinforced this opinion of him when the Latin American leaders who had serious concerns with the policies of previous administrations of the United States all declared that at last they had met an American president who listened and with whom they could speak.
As I read the Gospel passage given to us for our meditation this Sunday, this new approach to solving the problems of the world came to mind because it is an approach that can be applied in all spheres of life where there are disagreements. It is an approach which seems to be validated by our Gospel reading.
The Gospel passage gives us the criteria for leadership, one of which is that leaders must be capable of reconciling persons who are separated from each other for whatever reason.
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” It is very normal that countries and organisations will have different ideas and different goals and will want to act in different ways. This is also true within countries and organisations. The true leader, different to those who seek to divide in order to rule, always tries to bring about understanding so that there is unity of purpose among those whom he leads. True leaders have the ability to recognise what peoples and groups have in common and encourage others to focus on what unites rather than on what divides so that they work towards having “one flock and one shepherd.” A true leader works as much as possible to develop the consensus model of decision-making, thus ensuring that in the solution to problems there are no losers. Everyone is a winner. In a culture in which competition is put forward as the ultimate value, in whatever sphere of activity one finds oneself, to be a consensus builder seems to be counter-cultural. If we believe however that in the afterlife with God, there is no competition and if we believe that heaven begins here on earth, then in the things that truly matter, i.e, the good of nations and persons, there can be no competition.
To be a leader who operates in the way described above there are certain preconditions. First of all, the true leader accepts or seeks leadership, not for personal gain, but for love of those to whom he/she has been sent as leader. This love impels the leader to accept hardship and even death for the good of those who are being led.
The Gospel tells us, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Today as we witness styles of leadership which have far more to do with personal gain, or the desire for popularity or power, we thank God for leaders who have given their lives for their people. We thank God for persons like Oscar Romero, killed in El Salvador for his suffering people, and for many leaders whom we know, not as power seekers but really as servants of the people.
The second precondition given to us in the Gospel passage is that true leaders know their people. “I am the good shepherd”, says Jesus, “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.” True leaders know their people’s concerns, they know their aspirations and the desire of the true leader is to address the concerns of his/her people. So often leaders, because they are concerned with their own legacy undertake all sorts of projects that do not address their people’s concerns or aspirations. True leaders forget their own concerns; they place their own aspirations on the back burner, in a very true sense true leaders “lay down” their lives for their “sheep” – they have no life of their own. The well being of the sheep consumes all their thoughts and their lives.
The gospel passage ends by telling us that true leaders are loved by God. They are loved by God because they carry within themselves the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep. This Sunday then as we thank God for those who exercise leadership as described in the Gospel passage, we ask for the grace to incorporate the characteristics of the Good shepherd in our own lives so that those whom we lead may be brought to pastures which are truly nourishing.
All powerful and ever-loving God we thank you for the parable of the Good Shepherd. It teaches us what true leadership means. As we thank you for the truly great leaders of our age, men like Msgr Oscar Romero, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyrere, we recognise the thirst in our land for true leaders, be these in the family, in the workplace, or in the political arena. Raise up true leaders we pray, leaders like the good shepherd, capable of uniting our people, leaders who will make the concerns of the people their own, leaders capable of laying down their lives for us. We ask this through Jesus your Son, the Good Shepherd and Mary our shepherdess. Amen
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