Leadership. The concept keeps being discussed; not only in Matthew’s Gospel but, seemingly, in every department of living. The cry is often for positive or good or caring or even honest leadership. Civic calls and criticisms invade our newspapers, our news broadcasts, our TV and are certainly found in the confines of the new expression ‘the pub test’!
Matthew’s emerging community, engaged in setting a new direction and seeking to draw upon their past heritage, but with eyes looking to the new horizons taught to them by Jesus, were often engaged in fierce conflicts with their former leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees; much like Jesus was in his time with the Chief Priests and Elders. Conflict begun before the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE, continued and continues today.
The emerging Christian communities listening to Jesus, strove to adopt different expressions of leadership. So, for Paul in today’s excerpt, he acts like “a mother feeding and looking after her own children”. Paul strove not to be “a burden on any one of you”, echoing perhaps that teaching of Jesus, “they, (Scribes and Pharisees) tie up heavy burden and lay them on men’s shoulders”.
The new Christian communities had begun a new life together and were asked to participate equally and fully in the emerging community. The task of us all taking our role in the community, was addressed, yet again, by our Pope echoing the Vatican II insistence of “fully conscious, and active participation” in the liturgical life of the community, and developed since then to all parts of Church life. That reform has hit many stumbling blocks, like so many efforts since Jesus.
Matthew’s model of egalitarian communal leadership has been largely ignored down the ages, but it is still proclaimed. The other model based on power, property and prestige, may give us status in the eyes of the world… but that is not what we are meant to be. Thus, another call this week: We all have some form of leadership responsibilities. How do we exercise such power? Jesus is still a model. “The greatest among you must be your servant.”