The False Leader In Our Midst

John 10:11-16 on the memorial of St. Boniface, bishop and martyr.

The Gospel today draws the contrast between the good and the bad, the authentic and false shepherd. The shepherd was absolutely responsible for the sheep. If anything happened to a single sheep, the shepherd had to produce some kind of proof that it was not his fault. Amos (3:12) speaks about a shepherd rescuing two legs from the mouth of a lion, to present it as proof. The point is that the proof shows that the shepherd was unable to prevent its death. 

To the shepherd it was the most natural thing to risk his life in defense of his flock. Sometimes the shepherd had to do more than risk his life: Sometimes the shepherd had to lay its life down against thieves who came to despoil the flock.

On the other hand, there was the false shepherd. The difference: the REAL shepherd was born to his task. It was his life’s vocation. 1) He spent time with the flock. As soon as he was old enough, he would go to his flock, “making them his friends and his companions” that owing to the time spent regularly, the sheep eventually are able to recognize the shepherd’s voice. 2) Thus, with this relationship, it was 2nd nature to think of the flock, before he would think about himself.

The false shepherd came into the job, not as a calling or a vocation, but as a means to make money. He was in it simply and solely for the pay he could get. He had no sense of the breadth of his responsibility.

The authentic shepherd will say, “What can I contribute?” while the false shepherd will ask, “What can I get out of this?” The authentic shepherd views the service in the lens of love, while the false shepherd will look at work in the angle of self-advantage.

We can see this analogy with Jesus: Wolves were a threat to the flock. Thus, in two verses from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said that he was sending the disciples out as sheep in the midst of wolves (10:16) and that the wolves would even dress like sheep (7:15) as a Trojan Horse strategy.

Thus, we can expect a double danger: The attack will be coming from the outside, like the wolves/robbers of yore and from the inside. Many battles are first waged from deep in ourselves. But within our country’s context, the false leaders will come out like they care for us, but they are actually like wolves dress like sheep.

The world suffers from bad and inept leadership, with the results taking a toll on their citizens. This is what we see in the United States, and in our country today. I will not only say, Black Lives Matter, but I will say that all of life matters.

Thus, when life is the most important thing, the good leader will put everything he/she can to save all of the flock: each life cannot be a collateral to the drug war, or a sacrifice at the altar of self-preservation and convenience as abortion, or as an aside when lives are threatened by the Covid19 virus. To curtail human rights like the freedom of expression and the right of information by threatening the existence of communication systems, or to threaten those who disagrees with them with the Anti-Terrorism Bill, or even, in the midst of a health disaster, to focus on how to maintain themselves in power— these are all the works of false shepherds.

Verse 16 says something more: Jesus said, “But I have other sheep which are not of this flock. These too I must bring in, and they will hear my voice, they will become one flock, and there will be one shepherd.”

One of the hardest thing in the world is to unlearn exclusiveness, a particular trait of the specially privileged, seen in a particular gender, race, creed, and even political affiliation. We realize in the time of a lockdown, that the virus has made us think that we affect each other in many ways than one.

As articulated by the young generation in the McCann-Erickson Youth Survey 2018, inclusiveness and equality are non-negotiables. Pope Francis would reiterate, “welcome those in the peripheries,” and the Jesuits with “walk with the excluded!” We do not eradicate those who are not of other tribes. Thus, great leaders will also protect, not just the lives of those who belong to his/her political party, but also those who are critical of themselves. Bawal pikon. Pakinggan ang lahat.

To Jesus, caring for both the wheat and the weed brings true unity, and thus constitute true leadership.

Therefore, how can we be a true and good leader according to the mold of Jesus as the Good Shepherd?

In Greek, there are two words for good: Agathos which simply describes the moral quality of a thing or an action; and kalos which brings the loveliness in the character of goodness. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is kalos.

There is a medical drama TV series called, The Good Doctor, an original from South Korea’s Park Jae Boom, and adapted by ABC Studios and Sony Pictures. The description of “good” in the title here is kalos. He is not only someone who does what is good, he IS good in the sense that he is not just efficient and skilled as a doctor, but that he has sympathy and kindness and graciousness in how he cares and treats his patients. In kalos, you become an enchanting person with a great strength of character and the power of influence. This combination of character, strength and power, is what Guy Kawasaki would call an enchanting leader.  

A good leader, in the image of the Good Shepherd, is not just someone who practices good things, but he/she is good. We become what we repeatedly do. Thus, if we begin with agathos, repeatedly doing good acts, we eventually become a good person: a kalos person, a kalos leader to the people we serve, a kalos shepherd to the flock we tend.

Published by Jboy Gonzales SJ

TV host: ABSCBN's Kape't Pandasal. Environment. Culture. Music. Photography. Leadership. Edgy. Eccentric. Jesuit.

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