Gospel Jn. 13:31-33a, 34-35
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
A few Sundays ago I was listening to the programme “panchyte.” One of the presenters made a distinction between rulers who have power and leaders who have authority. He was also saying that it is not often that one finds rulers who are also leaders and the great danger always exists that leaders will become rulers governing by force and not by authority. I thought that distinction a very enlightened way of looking at the role of leadership especially as we are involved in a national discernment process designed to choose those who will assume the role of governance in our land.
In the Gospel passage of St. John given to us for our meditation this week, Jesus speaks to his disciples of the glorification of his Father and his own glorification. As I read the passage I remembered my Father’s words to us that we should always strive to become the best that we could be. My Father was extremely proud of his children especially when we were praised by others. In a very true way he was being glorified in his children.
In his life on earth Jesus lived the values of his Father. He was faithful to what the Father expected of him and because of that Jesus revealed the Father as a God of tremendous love and compassion, A God of total forgiveness and love. In Jesus the Father was glorified. Jesus however is going away. He tells his disciples “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” It will now be their turn to glorify Jesus and Jesus tells them how it is to be done. It will only be done through fidelity to the values of Jesus and so Jesus impresses on his disciples the values which must be lived. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Unlike the Old Testament command to love the neighbor as one loves oneself
Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment embracing a new and higher value. It is to love as he has loved. Jesus thus demands more of his disciples, he stretches them, and he calls them out of themselves to give more than they have been taught to do, more than they have been accustomed to do. Jesus calls his disciples to excellence in love. What Jesus does is what all great leaders do.
He does not force his disciples; he calls them to higher things by the very example of his life.
“ As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jesus was a leader with authority. His words were validated by his lifestyle and because of that his disciples followed him. He was not a ruler with power. He had no power but he was a leader with authority and his disciples imitated him even to the giving of their lives for him and for those in their charge. All the apostles were martyred.
In a few short weeks we will be called to choose those whom we will give the task of governing our country. We can choose rulers or we can choose leaders. We can choose those who will leave us in our comfort zones or we can choose those who will stretch us and call us out of ourselves to something greater. This stretching is never easy but it is the only way to become the nation which God calls us to become.
Great leaders always have the courage to call their countrymen out of themselves to excellence. John Kennedy in his inauguration told his people; “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Nelson Mandela called his country from the torment of racial strife to a country of reconciliation through the truth and justice commission. Mon Romero called El Salvador from the injustices of the wealthy to greater equity in the distribution of resources. St. Bernard in the feudal age called his monks to a higher chivalry. It is in calling their countrymen to something greater than themselves that these leaders have been glorified. These have truly been leaders with authority. Those who have the courage to call us out of ourselves to something greater are the leaders whom we need in our land.
All powerful and ever-loving God your Son Jesus was not afraid to call his disciples to a way of life which was more exacting than that to which they were accustomed. He asked them to love as he had loved, giving his very life for them .He knew that the human spirit needs to be challenged in order to excel. Yet today so many are afraid to challenge those in their care to excellence and so we live in mediocrity. Father, give us leaders with the courage to challenge us, so that we may outdo ourselves and become the people we are called to be. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother and your Son, Jesus. Amen