Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Servant Leader

He was ordained a priest in 1945 after seven years of study. After his ordination and First Mass, he went back to the seminary for a final retreat before going to his first parish.  That first night he could not sleep, so he decided to take a loop around the seminary.
On his walk he met Mike, the night watchman, who would walk from building to building, making sure everyone was safe.  They chatted about the lovely weather and some other small talk. Of course, he had a brogue. That’s how it was in 1945. After a few minutes, he told Mike “I better get back to my room and try to get some sleep.”  Mike tipped his hat and said – “Well, good night, Father.”  The priest said later – “For 50 years, I’ve been trying to live up to that tip of the hat.”
This good priest understood that he had received this title – Father – not for himself – but for the good of others. He was called to be a servant!  If only that was true of all of us who have received titles and responsibilities – that we are not to be served, but to serve!
Our gospel is very uncomfortable today – Jesus criticizes the leaders:
They preach but they do not practice. The word often used is hypocrite – that word comes from the Greek - it means “play actors” who wore masks for their roles. Their public faces do not match their inner truth. This is a great challenge for us – to be who we say that we are – to be the same person – at work, at school, at home, on vacation, at the store, when I am alone. We have the opportunity to be a great example for others. Are we?
They give heavy burdens to carry, but do not lift a finger to move them. Jesus does not say – do not give heavy burdens – speak the truth – BUT - Cardinal George of Chicago used to tell his seminarians – do not dump truth on people and walk away – walk with them!  Sometimes we priests must tell people - they cannot be a godparent because they are not confirmed or married in the church. But then, we try to help them – would you like to prepare for Confirmation? – would you like to have your marriage blessed in church? – we blessed 7 marriages last year!
They love symbols of power and importance. They seek their own glory instead of the Glory of God! What Jesus asks for instead is humility.  And, what is humility?   It is not putting oneself down, saying I am no good.  Humility recognizes that all I am and all I have is a gift from God. So then – what return can I make to the Lord for all that has been done for me?  It is a call to compassion.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”
So then here’s the challenge:

See the stained glass window? A saint lets God’s light shine through. God’s light!