Our personal leadership is important, today, because it affects the quality of life we’ll have, tomorrow
It would be easy today, to just focus on the sins of the clergy, but it wouldn’t help many people! In our weekly youth sharing, the youth raised a serious issue which is much more important. The pressure young people feel to perform, especially men, so they will be noticed by a lady.
Some youth said that: men have to produce and have income in order to be praised or noticed by a woman, whereas, there are less expectations on women to achieve fame or income. I’m not trying to be sexist, just responding to the concern raised by the youth in Kenya.
This can be a great burden on their shoulders as they try to measure up to what others want. For some young men who try, and appear to fail, they can fall into depression or turn to drugs/ alcohol. The question is: who is helping to lift the burden from them? As Jesus said: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them?”
It’s not just the priests who do this to Christians but how many of us make silent or noisy demands on other groups of people, or individuals, for our own benefit? Do we act fairly?
I suggested that performing is part of the cross that men have to bear: we cannot have children, so our major roles are as protector, provider and lover. This is nature at work. It doesn’t mean a woman cannot be (or is not!) a protector, provider and lover. In fact, they both are, but to differing degrees and according to circumstances.
One of our youth, who has a wife and child, shared how he loves his wife so much because she doesn’t complain when they have little. She adjusts, pitches in and they get through till there is more. Other youth said: she is a rare wife! What is important is that the man try his best, while success comes over time.
I shared about the importance of church participation to help men feel connected, and have a support network that makes them feel important and develop a sense of belonging. Especially if the church has many programmes that create a need for participation and leadership.
The more we get involved in community, the more opportunities become available.
People inspired by a generous young person may offer them a job, or refer them to someone else. We should also remember the findings of psychologists who suggest what our unconscious motivations are: for men it is status, while women are more motivated by security. And we thank God that these are the primary factors in our make-ups.
If a man was not moved by status, he wouldn’t have a reason to get out of bed and provide for the family. If a woman was not motivated by security, she would not be overly concerned about the baby, or ensuring enough food in the house.
The two motivations are important and complementary. Unfortunately, like most good things, they can be corrupted! In the Gospel today, Jesus criticises the Jewish leaders for trying to impress people (longer tassels, etc.), instead of helping people in practical ways. In other words, they were seeking status, at the expense of others.
The younger we are the more we want to stand out (important to some degree), so we can be noticed, validated and encouraged. However, as we grow older, it’s important to be more reserved and allow others to be recognised for being beautiful, smart, etc.
Helping others to look important, and recognising their talents does not diminish ourselves, but helps to lift others up. That might mean the difference between life and death for some young people who feel left out, rejected or useless.
The prophet complains that the priests do not glorify God. What does it mean to glorify?
When it comes to God, to glorify means to praise to the highest degree possible, in two ways:
1. Be the best you can be to reflect well on your Creator (God) = first half of life; and
2. Help other people to be the best they can be, reveal God in them = second half of life.
One of the major tasks for our second half of life is to praise the beauty of others: good works, good looks, good potential (give them opportunities to shine). This is the best way to find happiness in our elder years! This is well reflected in the last sentence of the Gospel: “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will exalted.”
As mentioned above, the first part of glorifying God is to be the best we can be. So, what happens if we don’t do our best? Just as the battery in a car doing nothing goes flat, when people do not perform to their best, it causes depression and a victim mentality in us. If we are not active and trying to do good things for ourselves and others, part of us dies.
St Paul, while bringing the good news to the people, shared how he worked hard “slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you.” A good example of being our best.
Every Christian is a leader to some degree. And our personal leadership is important, today, because it affects the quality of the life we will have, tomorrow: empower someone today!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI