Thursday, 3 November 2011

Guest Blog - "Do what they tell you, but do not follow their example" - Fr Kevin O'Shea

Today's Gospel (31st Sunday of Year - 30th October 2011) reminds us of the saying "Do as I say not as I do". Jesus is contrasting what the scribes and Pharisees say about the Law - and how they act. They do not, as He says, practise what they preach. Not only that - but their teaching about the Law and its regulations placed great burdens on people while they themselves did nothing to help.
Their role, as they see it puts them above other people and they demand - and obviously get - plenty of attention and respect from those around them. Jesus is not impressed. He turns to His disciples and the people who have gathered to listen and states quite forcibly that this is not how it is to be among them. Their model of leadership was to be that of service.

Today people are more impressed by witness rather than by talk, and if they listen to leaders, it is because they see their leaders practise what they preach.

Sadly in recent years those in leadership in our Church have failed. Frequently we read about the sex scandals among the clergy & the irresponsible response of some Bishops who sought to preserve the status quo rather than let the truth be known. The harsh words from the prophet Malachi of his day echo through the centuries: "And now, O priests, this command is for you .... I will send the curse on you .... You have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble..."

Let us pray God's mercy on our priests who have failed and be grateful those who have witnessed to true leadership through their faithful service. As a result of these scandals many may be tempted to leave the Church but Jesus is asking us to stand firm. Jesus' message is clear: we are a church of sinners from top to bottom. He warned us that there would be scandals, but we are not to lose heart. The message of the kingdom stands, no matter how corrupt the messenger. "Do what they tell you, but do not follow their example."

Unfortunately the clerical leadership in our church continues despite the call of the Vatican Council to usher in the era of the laity. In my opinion change will begin from the grass roots and not from the top: hence everyone of us must take our call to leadership in this parish seriously and not leave it to others - always remembering that Jesus has called us to servant leadership - those who exalt themselves will be humbled - and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, C.M.
Fr Kevin O'Shea is the Parish Priest of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Mill Hill. This article was orignally published in the Sunday notes section of the Church website -
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