I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all the flock in view when standing in the middle of the scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. (Ezekiel 34:11)
I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. (Ezekiel 34:12)
I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. (Ezekiel 34:11)
For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
There is a sense of frustration as an educator at recent examples of political leadership that contradict everything we are on about in our noble vocation. The lack of graciousness and respect; to think that name calling and ridiculing an opponent is legitimate political debate. Dishonesty that fails to recognise reality and misleads those who are vulnerable or who trust the leader. Destructive behaviours and decisions to promote a selfish agenda while those who need leadership suffer the consequences. Recent weeks, in fact years, have not portrayed public leadership in an ennobling light.
It’s heartbreaking for educators who, everyday, before they even consider what they will teach, set a framework for their teaching that first and foremost embodies a standard of behaviour and vision for life that has respect for the other, and the self, as the foundation. Unless this first, nothing else matters. This is especially true in relation to the young men we teach, who specifically are vulnerable, and so susceptible to an ingrained patriarchal, misogynistic, aggressive, disrespectful stereotype of what it means to be a man. They cry out for alternative role models that portray a different vison of what ‘authentic masculinity’ really looks like.
This portrayal of leadership on the International and political stage is counter to the practice of respectful relationships and restorative practices that are at the heart of good contemporary education. These are not just ideals or policies; at schools, in the interaction between all members of the community, they are put into practice every day. There is a foundational aim to these practices: to make the world a more compassionate, caring, forgiving, inclusive place for all.
A phrase that Assumption College emphasises in its training and expectations of students seeking positions of leadership is the Christian concept of ‘servant leadership’ – leadership that puts the other, especially the most vulnerable or most alienated, at the heart of both decisions and actions. It is most succinctly and beautifully captured in the story of Jesus’ encounter with the blind man, Bartimaeus, when he asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10.51).
The readings from this weekend’s Feast of Christ the King capture the beautiful essence of Servant Leadership. Ezekiel likens the underpinning motivation of the leader to the way a shepherd tenderly cares for their sheep. The Gospel of Mark again captures this tender essence at the heart of servant leadership, when we are told Jesus, before giving some ‘hard truths’ to the rich young man he encounters, “looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10.17) Love and compassion for the other is the foundational motivation.
But perhaps the very practical, other centred, nature of servant leadership is captured this weekend in Matthew’s Gospel vision of the coming of God’s Kingdom in this world. It has nothing to do with wealth, or power or privilege, but rather very practical, humble, other centred actions that ensure: