Today’s reading from the book of Wisdom speaks to kings, magistrates and those who have power. “For those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends… that you may learn wisdom and that you may not fall away.”
Pope Francis has spoken strongly about how leaders of the Church should act. He has advised a modest lifestyle, intentional outreach to the poor, and an attitude of service and inclusion. Leave aside the trappings of power; do not be caught up with inward looking concerns; reach out to all those who are marginalized. The Pope is not only speaking these words, he is living them as well. Just as his namesake, Francis of Assisi, responded to the Lord’s request to “repair my church,” Pope Francis is doing the same 800 years later.
Our own political leadership would benefit by hearing these words and living by them. In recent years, have our elected leaders really considered the best for all people? Even with many legitimate differences of opinion, have they conducted debate with honesty and respect for those who differ? We might all benefit if we consider a recent headline referring to Pope Francis: “Neither a Conservative Nor a Liberal, Simply a Radical Christian.”
We are all leaders and persons of authority in some way. It can be as a boss, a parent, an older brother or sister, a respected community member or a religious superior. Where and how do I play such a role in my life? Do I take the words from today’s first reading and those of Pope Francis to heart in my care for the people God invites me to lead in some manner? Am I a servant leader, reaching out to those in need?
We celebrate the feast of Stanislaus Kostka today. Stanislaus died as a novice, the very first stage of formation in the Society of Jesus. He was a Jesuit for only ten months. He never held a position of power or authority, but by the simple example of how he lived, he has inspired many novices to embrace religious life. Let us lead by the way we live. As Francis of Assisi is reported to have instructed his followers, “Go forth and preach the gospel; speak if you must.”
—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits