If you look at society, what do you see? Many of us see that society seems to be made up of two categories. One category is what we call leaders, the other is what we call followers. The leaders are those who govern and the followers are those who follow and obey the leaders. When it comes to our church, do we see a similar pattern? For many of us, we think that the church is also made up of two categories. One category is what we call church leadership, which is made up of clergy, that is the church hierarchy consisting of bishops, priests and deacons, together with lay leaders who help the clergy in different capacities. The other category is what we call followers, which are generally lay persons who may not hold any significant leadership role. Once again, in a church setting, many seem to think that the leaders govern and the followers just obey.
But if we ponder for a moment, is it really true that we are made up of such categories? Actually, no. We may have different functions in church, but we are actually belonging to only one category, that is, we are disciples of Christ. As disciples of Christ, we are not called to be just passive followers, merely obeying and following, but active leaders in our own different ways. Today's readings tell us how we should carry out our responsibilities as disciples of Christ, as Christian leaders in our own different ways. The readings refer to all of us, whether we are clergy or laity. So what can we glean from today's readings concerning Christian discipleship and leadership?
Firstly, we must listen to God as the prophet Malachi warns us in the first reading.This means that we must be concerned with doing His will and not ours. When we listen to God, we recognise that all authority and power comes from God alone. Whatever talents that we may have, comes from God, and have been entrusted to us for the good of the community. Secondly, our Christian discipleship and leadership must be pastoral, that is, we must love the community whom we serve. In the second reading, St. Paul uses the image of the love of a mother to describe his love for the Church. We too must always be motivated by love in all we do. Thirdly, our Christian discipleship and leadership must always be one of service instead of power and prestige. In the Gospel, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for abusing their leadership, by seeking to control the people and by trying to gain power, prestige and benefits from their position. As Christian disciples and leaders, we are called to be servants, to humble ourselves, and to serve the needs of our brothers and sisters, instead of looking for glory, or expecting places of honour, or demanding recognition or fringe benefits.
Ultimately, as Christian disciples and leaders, our goal is to be like Christ, our model and our teacher. We are called to follow Jesus' example in preaching the Good News to all, with joy, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, mercy, and a good dose of love. May we make every effort to fervently and enthusiastically carry out our duties and responsibilities as Christian disciples and leaders, for the greater glory of God.