August 2, 2011 - Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Those who want to be leaders are often bad leaders. The qualities we seek in a truly great leader (thoughtfulness, humility, listening, recognizing the talents of others) are not the qualities that make a person want to be a leader. Our readings today do not present for our consideration the corrupt leader, the person who seeks power for their own gain. We see instead people who sincerely believe that they ought to be leaders.

Miriam and Aaron insist that they ought to be leaders also. “They complained, ‘Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks? Does he not speak through us also?’” How amazing that these words, spoken over 3000 years ago, sound like they are from a recent brochure calling for a reorganization of the Church: women priests and voting for bishops, etc. It has often been observed that the kind of women who want to be ordained priests even though the Church declares this to be impossible are not the kind of people who ought to be priests anyway.

No one thinking rightly would want to take leadership of God’s people. The ideal leader is reluctant, seeking nothing for themself. They only assume leadership when they are forced into it, are faithful to the task as a burden, and give it up as soon as possible. This attitude is so well established as the ideal that many people who actually want to be leaders try to fake reluctance.

Why is reluctance such an essential characteristic of good leadership? Because none of us is equal to the task. If anyone thinks that they know exactly what the Church ought to do, ought to say, ought to be, their pride is equal parts ridiculous and scary. “If I were pope…” some people say, as if the pope just does whatever he wants. All of us are blind; if we try to be leaders we will be “blind guides of the blind.”

True leadership requires vision from God. God only gives us the vision we need for his call to us. There are many roles of leadership, such as parents, pastors, and teachers. No one should seek to go beyond God’s call; no one should want to go beyond God’s call. We are on a ship, sailing for heaven. Leadership requires knowing that nothing in our natural capacity prepares us for the supernatural journey, but trusting that God will reveal to us all that we need to know.