Reflection for 18/19th July

Frequently, I hear of teachers, who were inspired to become so, because of someone who taught them. It may have been at primary or secondary level, but someone generated enthusiasm and inspired imitation. It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I think that is true. It does not matter if the leader is in politics, education, fashion or sport, we imitate because of what they have achieved, what they have said, the principles they uphold, the fame they have garnered or the person they are. So many mums fall into this category. I have heard my sisters speak to their kids the same way my mum spoke to them, make the same sacrifices, cry the same tears. That is what great leaders do, they lead. We, in turn, do what those leaders do because that is what leaders do.

The leadership of a priest in a parish, is seen long after he leaves, in the number of persons involved in ministry, who study information and, who aspire to religious or clerical life. The greater the ability of the priest to put flesh on words, the more such words become living words. The more alive the words become, the more inspirational and motivating his example is. He, (presently male !!!) teaches more than words, commandments, laws, he teaches a way of life. Academic teachers do the same, when they teach the whole person, rather than just a person at a desk.

Unfortunately, many persons do not become teachers, opting instead to remain as disciples.

Disciples are followers. In religious terms, disciples are followers of Christ. We are called to be more than that, we are called to be teachers. Christ said to his apostles, “Go and teach all nations….”, but many do not take up the gauntlet, they stay as followers, and, sadly, followers from a distance.

During the week, I was given a copy of last Sunday’s newspaper article, by Fr Brian Darcy. It made for good reading, but I wonder how many persons reading it were motivated to act upon what they read. Many read reflections, and say, to quote Mrs Brown, “That’s nice” or “That’s challenging”. If it goes no further than that, we are only disciples. If we read, think, reflect, and leave it at that, we are not being the best person we could be. Worse, we are not trying to be the best person we could be, because it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

With the resumption of public Sunday masses, these lockdown ramblings come to an end. The duty, however, to motivate persons to follow Christ, to imitate the leader, continues. We strive to make disciples through the words that we use, but to morph from disciple to leader/teacher happens, when the words I use, are underlined by the actions I perform. My actions, both mark me out as a teacher, and motivate others to become teachers, in the same vein. That journey, that morphing, may very well be at the heart of Christ’s teaching in John’s gospel, when He talks firstly about looking after lambs, then, as they grow up, looking after sheep and then feeding those sheep through words and actions. We must make more of an effort to do that continuously, not to follow as sheep do, but to lead and teach; not for credit, or thanks, or recognition, but because it is the right thing to do. Simply and solely, it is our duty.

To look after, lead and teach, necessitates regular examination of conscience. Every day we are called upon to examine the way I act. Is it in accordance with the values I preach?Does what I do each day reflect the values I claim I care about? It should of course, but too often it does not, because we do anything for a quiet life. If it is a quiet, cosy, sanitised life we are after, then we need to find another religion to follow.