The Leadership That Marks the World

Deep down, everyone has a deep desire to touch lives, inspire hearts and minds to do the best. We want to do great things. We want to win the great battle. We want to reach the mountaintop. We want to live our ordinary life extraordinarily. We not only want to be these things, we want to point others to them also. The purpose of this paper is to identify some characteristics of an excellent leader.

To be a leader is no walk in the park. We have the arduous task of inspiring ordinary people to attain the extraordinary, and to stir natural man to the supernatural. Leadership demands us to be selfless in the service of others, and to sacrifice our lives to save others; it demands us to act alone sometimes, even if we don’t know most of the consequences— “loneliness of command”. So, that’s why many fail.

Although in the modern world people are reticent to accept things based solely on authority, when someone bold, courageous, fearless, and authentic emerges, they follow him faithfully. Bold leaders who can lead people to greatness inspire people how to win the inner war are followed without question. Young and old, men and women are looking for a leader who can look at them in the eyes and tell them the truth about themselves, about reality and life. They want someone who lives what he teaches. That’s the leader that inspires.

cPeople want a leader who leads by example. Do you ever wonder how was Jesus able to have so many followers, and get 12 uneducated men to set the world on fire through the gospel message? He inspired them through the examples of his life. They remained committed to him because he was never afraid to tell them the truth in love, even when it hurts. Sometimes the truth is so bold and mind boggling, some left, but they returned. “Lord to whom shall we go you have the world of eternal life” (John 6:68).

He was the finest example of authentic leadership. His conviction, humility, oratory skills made him one of the greatest leaders we have ever had. Throughout history, kings, queens, emperors, and presidents send their subjects off to die for them; their servants serve them. Jesus is the only leader who came to serve not to be served, and the only one who died for his subjects. This style of leadership has never been seen before, and I am not sure if any great leader has been wise enough to imitate it. However, the fruit this style bears is more effective than any style we are familiar with. It yields followers who are not afraid to give their lives for him. He has faithful followers in every corner of the earth. Genius huh?

Why was he so successful we may ask? Inspiration is everything. Great ideas and eloquent phrases are indubitably beautiful, but none is more effective than someone capable of inspiring others. The most beautiful speeches that cause change of hearts are not the poetic, and flawlessly written ones; the most effective speeches are demonstrated, and lived. They are the ones that inspire. They are

A true leader is courageous. Courage is a virtue, so it must be acquired. No one was born a leader according to Aristotle. It is a choice just like exercising is a choice. One becomes a strong, courageous, inspiring, and bold leader through practice, sacrifice, and discipline. Jesus was never afraid of the consequences of the truth, like when he was teaching on the Eucharist. The saints are courageous. Was St. Joseph not courageous? Good man, but ordinary man that he was, God asked him to accept Mary as his pregnant wife although he never did the deed; he accepts. Could you believe this? He accepts to take Mary as his wife although he had no idea at first how she became pregnant. That’s bold. That’s courageous. He fulfilled what St. Paul would say years later: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). That’s what kept the saints going among ridicule, doubts, fears, and during periods of the dark night of the souls. They kept their eyes on the goal. They remained grounded on their spiritual Reference Point— God through daily prayer. Consequently, they won the unfading crown prize.

lincolnCourage is the mother of every great moment and movement that has changed the course of history. It is what led Abraham Lincoln to do fight to preserve the union, abolish slavery, strengthen the federal government, and modernize the economy. It is what inspired Gandhi to stand up for freedom through the use of non-violence against the British. It is what led to the passage and ratification of the Constitutional amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote in 1919. It is how the civil rights movement won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for black Americans. They succeeded because they were not spiritually malnourished. Courage cannot be maintained unless rooted in a prayer life; that is necessary if anything noteworthy is to be accomplished. Courage, perseverance, and the will to fight for what is right till the very end make them a great leader.

A leadership vacuum exists in our culture. The world is in need of leaders. Our church is in desperate need of leaders who can inspire people to boldly embrace the gospel. We need leaders who are not afraid to defend our divine right in the public square. When we speak, even our own people don’t listen. When we get attacked, we don’t have one voice that could present our case for us, although many little voices are trying. We continue to succumb to the pressure of the masses about what to teach in our schools. We accept the fact that the natural law is not a valid argument in the public square. We continue to honor pro-abortion politicians with honorary degrees in our colleges. Our universities, the media, and Hollywood have done a masterful job at ridiculing every Christian virtue and elevating every form of sin as a noble right, cloaked under the guise of rights of freedom of choice.

slide_346602_3652488_freeThis is a direct result of poor leadership. We are all guilty; if we radically live the gospel, people will listen; they would not trample our views underfoot; they would not dare asking us to cover our cross when they are passing by. It does not take too many to change this trend. Just as it did not take too many St. John Vianneys to change the city of Ars, just as it did not need too many Mother Teresas to transform Calcutta, just as it did not take too many John Paul IIs to change Poland, it will not take too many of us to change this trend. But it will take some of us. Don’t ask who will it be? Look in the mirror.

May the Good Lord give rise to courageous leaders capable of leading us out of this mess. Amen.

At the Heart of Our Questionings

Many seem to work from the principle that questions are more important that answers. St Augustine is one of these people. He never misses an opportunity to ask questions. In his attempt to answer a question, he asks more questions. Thus, in this post, I am going to consider two of the many questions he asks in the Confessions. The first questions deals with what it means to ask God to come into us. He wants to know what comes first— to call upon God or to praise God and whether knowing God precedes calling upon God. The second question has to do with how to use the gifts bestowed on us by God. For Augustine, all talents/gifts must be used as a mean to come closer or to give glory to God. So, he questions: what advantage to have a good thing and not to use it well? I want to show that questioning leads him to find the truth— God, and that truth must be given priority over everything.
In answering the first question, he believes first of all that we must know God in order to call upon him. As he puts it, we must know something before we can call on that something; otherwise, we may end up calling on the wrong thing. However, there is no knowing God unless we call him in prayer. So, before we start calling, we need to have faith. In order for faith to grow, preaching is necessary. Unless the message is preached to us, faith cannot be developed (Confessions book I, I, 1). In summary, the message is heard through preaching, then that gives rise to faith. Through faith, we beg God to make his dwelling in us. When he does that, we truly know him. Then, he delves into a series of rhetorical questions about what it means to call God to ‘come into me’. How is he coming in us? He creates heaven and earth, and they cannot contain him. How can he come into us small as we are? Whatever exists has existence because God sustains it into being. So God is in everything (II, 2). How? Is he in everything as a whole or does each thing contain some parts of God? Is God in heaven and earth or is heaven and earth in God? (III, 3) Are we in God or is God in us? Why call on God if he is already in us? He wrestles with that question back and forth. He then concludes that God is incomprehensible and immutable (iv, 4). That tells if a person cares about finding the truth and lets himself be led by reason, he can come to know some of the attributes of God even before he hears the message of the gospel.
The next question that I find interesting is Augustine’s personal reflection of how poorly he had used the immensity of his talent. He realizes he was gifted in the art of speaking and disputing, incisive in the liberal arts, and well versed in music and numbers without the need of a teacher. However, instead of using them to come closer to God, he used them to travel away from God. He feels his capacity causes him more harm than good (book IV, 30-31) because he did not dedicate the vastness of his knowledge to God. In hindsight now, it is clear to him that knowing all these things without knowing God was worthless. A person who knows God is happier than a person who has all the knowledge of the world and yet is ignorant of God. It is infirmity to rely on one’s own strength. The good life is to be in the bosom of God. No knowledge of the sciences and the liberal arts are needed for that(iv, 31). If we do have them and fail to use them for the honor and glory of God, what advantage is that?
Each one of us has an Augustine in us. Deep down, we are all looking for answers. We are all seekers of the truth. Although it would take long period of frustrations and incalculable amounts of time to find, the truth can be found in philosophy, philology, mathematic, physics if we carefully look. But I shall show you an even shorter and more excellent way— Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the answer to your questions. Give him a chance. He is looking for you even more than you are looking for him.