Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates at Rome’s Rebibbia prison for Holy Thursday on April 2, 2015, The American Prospect.
[Jesus said]: For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
“Servant leaders are a revolutionary bunch—they take the traditional power leadership model and turn it completely upside down. This new hierarchy puts the people…….at the very top and the leader at the bottom, charged with serving the employees above them. And that’s just the way servant leaders like it” (Mark Tarallo, 2018). That was taken from a webpage sponsored by the New York Institute of Technology School of Management, specifically concerning Human Resources. It claims that servant leaders are marked by a clear vision that their employees are co-workers, whose talents and skills are to be fostered and encouraged, and that the whole organization will benefit therefrom, even to the extent that the leader will identify and develop leadership qualities among them, thus ensuring the organization will survive and grow. Now take that quoted passage and apply it to Jesus’ radical and shocking demonstration of service leadership at the Last Supper when he took on a slave’s activity and insisted on washing the feet of all this disciples, to their horror and shock. Here was, after all, the Christ, the Anointed Son of God, as revealed by his apostle Peter, abasing himself to a degree unheard of. And it was Peter who protested the strongest: “No, you shall never wash my feet!” (John 13:8). One might think that this scene was somewhat enhanced in the photo above, with the pope washing the feet of teenage felons in a prison in Rome, among whom were non-Christians… Shocking! (But remember that one of the Pope’s titles is Servus Servorum Dei, or Servant of the Servants of God). Also note that the School of Management’s SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) claims that servant leaders “possess a serve-first mindset, and they are focused on empowering and uplifting those who work for them. They are serving instead of commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority, and always looking to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose” (ibid).
Today’s gospel could well have been the inspiration of the philosophy espoused by the Institute! Jesus is very clear on the role of disciple, be she or he boss or employee, that we must respect the dignity, the skills and the potential of others, do our best to encourage and foster them and show by those means that they are valued children of God, as are we. Do you remember that semi-biographical movie of Mozart called “Amadeus”? It concerned the scheme of Antonio Salieri, Imperial Court Composer and later kapellmeister to the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, to destroy the young upstart composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri, in this movie (which was far from the truth, but was glorious drama) was the only person who recognized Mozart’s prodigious talent, way beyond his own, and therefore plotted to silence him. Mozart died at the age of 35. In Jesus’ model, Salieri should have fostered, encouraged and opened as many doors for the young man as possible, he whom the Lord had clearly gifted enormously. In our own worlds, we too must have an open mind with those around us, seeking ways to enhance their gifts, showing generosity and kindness, and encouraging their growth and development, no matter their circumstances.
And all this, Scripture adds today, no matter how we might be repaid and in what way. Today’s first reading is taken from the classical “Suffering Servant” passages in Isaiah. It could have been written by a witness to Jesus’ passion! And our second reading is an exhortation to all of us not to give up in any of this, but to persevere and so “approach the throne of grace” where we will receive due recognition. It is tricky to embark on Jesus’ model of leadership. Others might wonder what we are getting out of developing their talents. They might question our motives for being so supportive and encouraging. They might throw our good intentions back in our face with insult and rejection, just as happened to the Lord. As today’s second reading says, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way yet without sin”. We stand with the Lord throughout all this, resolute in our identity as a servant of all, no matter what. It is with such a conscience that we will be able to stand before the Judge of all, and anticipate a welcome and a greeting as described in one of Jesus’ parables, “Well done, good and faithful servant….. come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:23).
Welcome Home, Danny Hahlbohm Art.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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