“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:10-11)
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus clearly refers to bad leaders as thieves whose only mission is to steal that which belongs to the people, kill them directly and indirectly and destroy their future through poor policies and economic instability. Anyone who aspires for leadership for his or her own selfish ambitions rather than the good of the people is a human version of the devil.
Jesus goes on to describe the qualities that make Him a good shepherd. One: Sincere desire for the good of the people. Jesus says: “I came that they may have life.” This is very similar to His manifesto in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Two: Willingness to Sacrifice for the Sheep. It is one thing to have good intentions for your flock but most often, we are not ready to offer our very lives for them. This is what makes Jesus Christ the most outstanding leader ever. Jesus says to us: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). Jesus did not simply promise to die for the sake of the sheep, he practically made good His words. A leader who will take the next available flight and rush abroad for treatment while doctors are on strike and hospitals are comatose in his own country is not a shepherd but a hireling.
Three: Knowledge of the Sheep Another big problem with bad leaders is that they don’t understand the condition of their sheep, they don’t know what their sheep are passing through, they don’t listen to the cries of their sheep, and they live in a totally different world from the sheep. When the sheep are bold to confront them, they attack and silence them. Pope Francis would say: “A good shepherd must smell like the sheep.” Jesus tells us: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10:14)
In summary, the call to leadership is always a call to service, selflessness, and sacrifice. It is not something you aspire to just because you can afford millions of naira to purchase nomination forms. May God help us.
Leading others is indeed the most difficult assignment on earth. Without cultivating the habit of personal prayer, no one can ever succeed at it. This is the lesson we learn in today’s first reading. In his prayer, Peter was given a vision wherein he was told not to call anything unclean that God has made clean. He would later understand the meaning of this vision when some men came from Caesarea to fetch him. In the end, a Roman official of high standing, Cornelius along with his entire family was baptised and received the Holy Spirit. This paved the way for the spread of the faith to Rome.
Any leader who does not pray will end up being a clueless leader. No wonder, Jesus was always in the habit of waking up early to pray and sometimes spending whole nights in prayer. Without God, it is impossible to lead your fellow human being. This is why we must always pray for our leaders. Sometimes, when I consider the number of curses we constantly heap upon our leaders, I wonder why we still expect anything good from them.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, bless our world with good shepherds. Work in me and through me in my own little capacity that I may be a good shepherd. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 11:1-18, Ps. 42:2-3,42:3-4, John 10:1-10)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu