What makes a good leader? Wisdom from Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus

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Today’s readings continue to help us discern good leaders in our midst. The readings reveal the risks of speaking out against corruption, the importance of thoughtfulness, the dangers of misunderstanding and the necessity of selflessness.

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Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Rom 12.2) 

Liturgical day
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Readings
Jer 20:7-9; Ps 63; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27
Prayer

Do you recognize the importance of thoughtful leadership?

Are you willing to adjust your own thinking for the betterment of society?

On multiple occasions, the prophet Jeremiah laments his prophetic office, particularly because of his community’s reaction to his word. He cries out, “I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me,” because people reject him for proclaiming ominous prophecies about current and future destruction. Jeremiah bemoans his calling because it is difficult to deliver messages that people do not want to hear. This risk persists today. Many people want to hear only positive, agreeable messages, even when there are difficult issues that need to be addressed and remedied.

While he is sometimes reluctant about his calling, Jeremiah also declares the importance of his speaking the truth, recognizing that it is painful and exhausting to withhold his prophetic messages. We can learn from Jeremiah’s inner conflict. It is necessary to speak out against corruption, even at the risk of upsetting people who would rather not deal with the pressing issues of the day.

The second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a reminder of critical thinking. Paul tells the Romans to transform their way of thinking in order to discern God’s will. It is important to be informed thinkers and voters, especially as we make critical decisions in the near future.

Finally, today’s Gospel builds on the topic of authority. Last week, we heard about Jesus giving Peter authority because of his understanding of Jesus’ divinity. Yet soon after receiving the “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” Peter missteps. In today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts his Passion for the first time, revealing that he would suffer greatly, be killed and rise from the dead. Peter declares that this must not happen. Although Peter’s rebuttal could show his devotion, Jesus harshly rebukes him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Jesus criticizes Peter for failing to understand God’s plan. Like Jeremiah, Jesus delivers a message that is upsetting and difficult for people to process. Peter’s angry reaction mirrors that of Jeremiah’s community, which refused to recognize impending destruction.

Jesus then explains the implications of being one of his followers. It is a difficult but rewarding task that requires selflessness and suffering, although the reward will be eternal life. Self-denial was important for the early followers of Christ so that they could prepare themselves for the challenges they would face on account of their faith.

Good leaders show their selflessness by putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Scripture reveals the importance of openness to hearing the truth and the necessity of thinking critically about who is given power. We need leaders who fully recognize the implications of holding office and who demonstrate a commitment to serving others ahead of themselves.

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