SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Tim 1:1-3, 6-12; Ps 123:1-2; Mk 12:18-27 ]
We have seen many great leaders in the history of humanity. They are influential speakers, organizers, and visionaries. They are highly motivated, commanding followers to work with them. The world certainly needs charismatic leaders. Such leaders are often born, rather than nurtured. They have been given the gift of leadership. This explains why they are distinguished from leaders that are nurtured. However, this does not mean that they do not need mentoring and nurturing. All leaders, whether gifted or otherwise, need to be groomed. All potential leaders must be mentored in order for them to optimize their strengths and talents. The greatest leaders do not simply make an impact on society and on the world, but they mentor leaders after them, otherwise, all the good that they have accomplished would die with them.
St Paul was certainly one of these charismatic leaders. He was intelligent, courageous, proactive, focused, singular-minded, and highly motivated. He was highly successful in his missionary trips, establishing new Christian communities wherever He went. However, he was more than just a captivating leader; he was also a great mentor for leaders after him. In today’s first reading, we see how Paul mentored the young Timothy who was appointed bishop to lead the church in Ephesus. The young Timothy was facing many challenges in managing the Christian community. As in any church or diocese, the leaders are constantly challenged from within and without. Some leaders, overwhelmed by so many problems, become jaded, disillusioned, and give up their dreams and visions. If not supported, it is easy for such young leaders to lose courage and zeal.
St Paul understood the trials and challenges of new, especially young, leaders. It was not enough for him to entrust them with responsibilities but he continued to guide and mentor them. Paul made it a point to reach out to them and keep in contact with them through his letters when he could no longer visit them as he was in prison. In his farewell letter to Timothy, Paul gave his last testament and advice, as he knew that his end was coming. It was a letter written in a very personal and encouraging manner. He called Timothy, “dear child of mine.” Paul had always been the mentor for the young Timothy since his second missionary trip. He began by assuring Timothy of his affection and prayers.
Secondly, he reminded Timothy of the gift of ordination which he had received when he was ordained. “I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” We must remember that we are chosen to be leaders not because we are the most eligible but simply because of His grace. Indeed, leadership is an election of God. It is not because we are good or worthy to be leaders but because God has chosen us and endowed us freely with His gifts. For this reason, Paul exhorted Timothy to be confident in God’s grace by “relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.” Indeed, in Corinthians, Paul was able to resist the opposition to his leadership because he knew that his appointment was the consequence of God’s grace and not his doing. “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News; and I have been named its herald, its apostle and its teacher.” In the earlier letter, Paul wrote, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor.” (1 Tim 1:12f) Knowing that God has chosen us, we can be sure that He will also qualify us.
Thirdly, because we are appointed by God, we must rely on His grace alone. St Paul told Timothy, “God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.” This is surely a timely reminder. As leaders, we often think that the future of our organization or the success of our endeavor is purely the result of our hard work and ingenuity. We think that we are the ones who will bring about transformation and progress. In truth, God works in and through us. Indeed, leaders must humbly always rely on the power of God who gives us the wisdom, the strength, and focus to carry out His work. This was the mistake of the Sadducees. They could not grapple with the doctrine of the resurrection because as Jesus pointed out, “Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” They forgot that God’s power is greater than our human understanding. We tend to limit the power of God in our lives. St Paul reminds us of his own experience of the need to rely on the power of God. “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:3-5)
Fourthly, St Paul offered himself as an example of one who suffered patiently and courageously for the sake of the gospel. He told Timothy, “So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News.” Being a mentor in leadership is not just about imparting skills, but also about teaching them how to suffer cheerfully and confidently in times of trial. Paul suffered much in the ministry and in his missionary trips. He was often misunderstood not just by the Jews who persecuted him but also within the Christian communities. There were some leaders who could not accept Paul and challenged his apostleship. The second letter to the Corinthians was a defence of his apostleship. Now in prison, Paul took everything in stride. After the first two years in Rome with relative freedom to meet people, he was now in chains awaiting his execution because of his faith in Jesus. As leaders, we must be ready to suffer. If we are not ready to carry the cross of leadership, of being rejected, misunderstood, and even slandered by others, we cannot be good leaders. Fortitude is required of leaders!
Fifthly, Paul shared with Timothy the secret of his equanimity in the face of suffering and death. This was because he placed his faith in the resurrection of our Lord. It was his faith in Christ’s death and resurrection that gave him confidence in Him in spite of all obstacles. He said, “I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.” God is faithful and He is true to us. This was what the Sadducees failed to recognize. They did not have faith in the resurrection and so their life had no meaning beyond this world. They did not believe in the existence of angels and spirits. They did not believe in the immortality of the soul. However, for those of us who believe in the resurrection, we live with hope and confidence. As St Paul said, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” (Phil 3:20f) Indeed, for this reason, we can surrender our life, our work, our ministry, and our loved ones to the Lord so that no matter what happens, God is in charge. He is in control. He will see us through in our trials.
Finally, even if we were to die because we have been faithful to our vocation, we can die in peace with a clear conscience. Paul said, “Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers.” A good leader will always have a clear conscience knowing that he has done all he could with the grace of God. There is no greater peace when we arrive at our deathbed knowing that we have given our best to those people under our care. We will leave this world without regrets because we know that we will meet God and share in His glory. We will find fulfillment and happiness. Our bodies would be glorified like our Lord’s.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.