Jesus is the model for all

By Vinal Van Benthem | May 9, 2014

The author of a commentary on this week’s Gospel writes, “Jesus is the model for all who are called to leadership.” This week’s readings contain a number of wonderful images — shepherd, sheep gate, sacrificial lamb — but, unless you happen to raise sheep, they’re probably not a part of your daily experience. So how can we connect with these models of leadership?

Shepherd — someone who tends sheep, right? Like a nursing home director? Or an office manager? Or maybe a school crossing guard, teacher or principal? Someone who is responsible for the safety of another; someone on whom others depend to look out for their best interests. If Jesus is the model for the person in a leadership position (the shepherd) how does the company respond when sales are down? How does the case manager respond when an insured individual needs extensive medical testing?

Sheep gate — the only safe way to enter or leave the pasture. A college diploma? A GED? A glowing reference? A mentor? Who are the people who have been sheep gates for us? Do we help others to find safe passage from one stage of life to another? Do we show concern for those with special needs? Do we treat each person with whom we do business fairly or do we hire based on connections rather than qualifications?

Sacrificial lamb — someone who puts themselves on the line for the good of the others. We can easily see this applying to a fire fighter or police officer but what about the university sports official who refuses to accept a large financial contribution from a company engaged in unethical business practices, or the soldier who dares to accuse her superior officer of sexual harassment even though she knows it may result in further harassment or even dishonorable discharge? What about the teacher who refuses to give a student athlete a passing grade unless he or she actually earns it? Or the coach who cuts a star athlete from the team for breaking training?

“Jesus is the model for all who are called to leadership.” What model of leadership do we promote?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.

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