ACCS Principals’ Commissioning Mass – 23 January 2016

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Neh 8:2-6.8-10; Ps 18:8-10,15; 1 Cor 12:12-30 (or >< 12:12-14.27); Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

In the gospel, we have the inauguration of the mission of Jesus when He described His ministry, citing from the prophecy of Isaiah. He is called to proclaim the Good News to the poor in all its dimensions. So right from the outset, it is clear that the gospel is Good News only because it proclaims the mercy of God for humanity through the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of a wounded and broken humanity suffering from injustices, hurts, bondages, blindness and weariness in the struggles and trials of daily life.

The Universal Church is certainly in line with this thrust of Jesus’ mission as we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. All of us, regardless of our mission, therefore share the same common mission of proclaiming the Good News to the poor, revealing to them the mercy of God. Whether as priests, teachers, principals, doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, etc, we are all carrying out the work of mercy through our compassion and our love for the poor, which goes beyond the materially poor. The poor in our context would include the intellectually poor because of ignorance and falsehood, affectively poor because of loneliness and abandonment, spiritually poor because they are deprived of the Word of God and His love; and those who are suffering psychologically and physically. 

How can the work of mercy be truly accomplished by us all?   In our local Church, whilst aligning ourselves to the Universal Church in the work of mercy, we have an added dimension, which is the need to work together in communion, especially the leaders of the Church, whether they are clerical, religious, lay, volunteers or paid workers. The theme of communion is one of the tenets of the mission and vision of the Archdiocese. The other tenets of the New Evangelization are Word, Worship and Witness.   This work of mercy must be carried out together and not individually.   The need for teamwork is more and more important in today’s time than ever. The days of a hierarchical, top-down approach is over.   In those days, few were educated and hence the way of hierarchy worked well. But in these days, most of our people are well educated and they have much to offer. Work is also so specialized that none of us could say, he or she knows everything. Consequently, we must be humble to admit that we cannot do the work alone, or undertake the mission of the gospel alone, without the help of others.

This is what St Paul urges us.   He speaks of the unity of the Body of Christ. He wrote, “Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?” Of course, the answer is NO. We do not have all the gifts of the Spirit. We need each other’s help to fulfill the mission of the Church. God has blessed us with different talents but all for the service of the Body of Christ, the Church, and for the service of humanity so that all can be formed in the perfect manhood of Jesus Christ.

This means that leaders, and all of us, cannot work alone, independent of each other. There is only one mission and there is only one Church. Within the Church, we all have different roles and responsibilities in this entire mission. Every organization, every religious order and congregation, every society, every school, every charitable body and every ministry is essential to the work of carrying out the mission of proclaiming the gospel of mercy to all. It is therefore within this context that every level and every strata of the Church must be aligned with the archbishop’s vision and mission for the Church.   Divided we fall but when we stand together, we will be strong.

We must work with fellow leaders, consulting, collaborating and helping each other out because more than anyone else, as leaders we understand the difficulties we are facing. The more experienced and seasoned leaders can show us the way and encourage us on. That is why we must create more opportunities for leaders of the same trade, ministry and profession to come together to support each other, to net-work, as it will help us all to be better leaders. Indeed, St Paul says, “In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.”   We are called to be one in the Spirit.

We must be wary of those leaders who choose to remain independent and autonomous of others. This is dictatorship! A leader who wants to monopolize and control is a weak leader, because he or she is more interested in retaining power than to be in the service of others. Even the diocesan bishop is required to work in union with Rome. No one is above accountability and authority. A leader who does not consult, who does encourage teamwork, who makes all decisions by himself or herself without learning how to delegate is doing a grave disservice to the Church. A true leader is one who remains humble in office and in his position, and who empowers his subordinates to work with him and with the rest of the team for the greater glory of God and for the good of the Church and humanity.

Communion among leaders, and leaders with the Church, is not the only aspect of communion we are speaking about.   Most importantly, leaders must be imbued with the Spirit of the gospel, that same Spirit that empowered Jesus in undertaking the mission of proclaiming the Good News to the poor. Before we can lead others to Christ and show them His mercy and compassion, we need to acquire the Spirit of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus and the heart of the Good Shepherd. We too must be able also to say with Jesus with conviction and passion, “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.” Unless anointed by the Holy Spirit, we only have ourselves to depend on!

How, then, can we as leaders be filled with the Spirit of the Good News, the compassion and passion of Jesus for others, especially for those under our care? We must be identified with them. Jesus came for the poor by being poor Himself. He reached out to those living in the fringes of society and those considered sinners and outcasts by the so called “righteous people.” Jesus lived and worked among the poor, feeling with them, identifying Himself with them and suffering with them. Indeed, Jesus carried our infirmities upon Himself and our sins too, even though He knew no sin. He is the compassionate High priest and the most merciful Shepherd.   As leaders, therefore, we cannot just sit in our offices, but we need to go out and be with the grassroots. We need to be with our children and our leaders so that we can feel their pulse, their aspirations, challenges and struggles. Only then, can we truly find the right solutions to help them.

Most importantly, we must be imbued with the Word of God, as the first reading and the psalmist invites us. We cannot walk in the truth and lead others in the truth if we are not first listeners of the Word of God. It is necessarily therefore that leaders are familiar with the Word of God, the teachings of the Magisterium, the direction and vision of the local Church and their own organizations if they are to be effective leaders. Unless they are convicted of what they are called to do, they can never lead the organization to the next level of progress.

Cultivating a love for the Word of God and a deep prayer life is essential for Christian leaders, priests, religious, social workers, principals and teachers, for they are not simply doing human work but the work of God and work for God. They need to seek guidance from the Lord to see how best they can serve their members, staff, and the public. The Word of God not only guides us but inspires, especially when we are discouraged. We read how the Israelites wept for joy after hearing the Word of God.   Indeed, the Word of the Lord gives us joy in our work and ministry.   Without first receiving the Word of life, we cannot be life givers.

So let us take up with joy, passion and conviction the work of mercy, the work of restoration, the work of education and the work of liberation. We are called to set free those under the bondage of fear, anxiety, obsession and unforgiveness, and to give sight to the blind and ignorant, freeing those under the weight of injustices and the burdens of daily living. Most of all, we are called to empower everyone, especially the young, to become instruments of God’s mercy in the world by offering themselves as servants of the gospel of mercy in whatever vocation the Lord has given to them.


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