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 a teacher? Maybe an ICU nurse, or an EMT. Someone who is responsible for the safety of others, like a traffic guard or a bus driver. If Jesus is the model for the person in a leadership position (the shepherd), how do community leaders respond when small business owners have to close their doors? How do political leaders respond when desperately needed medical testing and treatment materials are in short supply?
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 who find themselves without an income? Do we shop locally whenever possible? Do we support our local food pantries?
Sacrificial lamb, someone who puts themselves on the line for the good of the other. We can easily see this applying to a firefighter or police officer, but what about the hospital administrator 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 improper behavior even though it may result in further targeting or even dishonorable discharge? What about the teacher who spends his own time and money developing materials for families who are homeschooling for the first time? Or the coach who, in line with social distancing, figures out a way for team members to work out separately/together?
“Jesus is the model for all who are called to leadership.” What model of leadership do we promote?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.