Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where Are Our Leaders?

Thinking more on what I wrote yesterday, about Jesus searching in vain for us, I realized that part of the problem is that we too are searching. We are searching for our leaders to lead us. We’re not looking to help our neighbors because we look for and expect that others will do that for us, as if the commandment about loving our neighbors doesn’t really apply to us anymore, because we’ve delegated that responsibility – “You commanded me to do that, God? No problem, I delegated it to the state to do for me; it’s not my fault if they fail, is it?” We have largely become in this country, in matters of faith and morals, like sheep looking for our leader. We look to others to lead us to do the right thing or to do it for us, and even largely accept what they define as right. We’ve stopped looking for what is right ourselves, whether because of moral relativism or just plain laziness on our part. Perhaps we’ve had it too good for too long, and we don’t know what to do in times of suffering and pain anymore. In times of tragedy we yell: “Medic! Doctor! Help me!” And we’d let ourselves (and our neighbors) die before we’d think to help ourselves. We all look to the state or the next guy to do things, or perhaps to lead us to do them, but we don’t think to do them ourselves.

I’m reminded of an episode of Mayberry RFD which I recently watched on television with my mom. In it, little Opie Taylor hits the ball through the window of a haunted house, and then he and his buddy debate who is going to go in and get the ball. “Not me!” “Well, you hit it there.” “Well, you pitched it outside.” And then of course: “You’re not chicken, are you?” They spent a lot of time debating who would go in, but they knew that someone HAD to go in --- that point was never in doubt. Later in the episode, even deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) was afraid to go into the haunted house (no surprise there; some people always are afraid to go forward, even when they know they have to – you know them and I know them, those incapable of leading, even themselves). Just so you won’t wonder about the ending to the story, it turns out that the town drunk, Otis, was running a still in the basement of the house, and creating the haunting effects. (No surprise there, either.)

The point of my telling that story is that it so resembles what is going on in America today. There is no money in the state or federal coffers, and we can’t keep borrowing, so “someone” has to cut expenses. “Not me!” “Well, you passed the bills that spent the money, you find a fix." "Well, you didn’t propose any alternatives and took that lobbyist’s money, so you find a fix.” The thing is, we all know that we have to cut spending, but no one wants to be the one to propose it. “Chicken?” Maybe that’s what we all need to send in a wire to Congress; maybe that’s the word which will get them moving; they are acting like such little children. Or maybe we need to paste it on the bathroom mirror, because we’re no better.

The Wall Street Journal recently said that total unemployment is 19% in this country; our neighbors need help, now! “The government should do something about that; it’s their fault.” “I don’t see why they can’t just lay off all government workers to save money (laying off more people will help unemployment?).” “The Church should do something, have special collections or something.” Nowhere do we find individuals saying “I’ll do something.” Don't you remember that when Jesus saw the poor, the lame, the sick, HE helped them?

Maybe some of you are saying there is nothing we can do, but there is. If you are not living on the street right now, you do have some assets. You do have some money, and you can spend less on yourself --- there is a way if you HAD to; and with 19% unemployed and if you are really a Christian --- you have to. You have a house, there is an empty bedroom or basement, or unused tools, or unneeded clothing; all these things can help your neighbors. You have time, you are reading this right now; there are better things to do with your time, even just visiting those alone, or worried. Our neighbors need us.

Some of us look to what is going on in various Middle-Eastern countries, and in various cities, and we think that is a good thing, that people are rising up, doing something. We’ve discussed those things here before, and yes it is a good thing that people are acting out, rising up, IF it is for a good reason. The “why” of their action is the key point, which is yet to be understood in some places. But here, in our country, as Christians, we know the “why” we should be rising up and taking action, and not waiting for our leaders to take us by the hand, or prod us onward.

The reason we should be taking action is because He told us so: “Love your neighbor.”

We need to stop searching for leaders, and lead. It’s what He expects us to do.


In his simplicity, the cured blind man asked them if they were going to become disciples of Christ because He had restored the sight of someone blind from birth. Why did they not become His disciples? Why instead did they react with rage and threaten him? Good questions.

Because it would have been difficult, inconvenient, humiliating, even dangerous, for them to suddenly accept this wonder-working prophet and His outrageous claim about His relationship to God.

A few of their number did in fact come to believe. We know of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who buried Him, but they were secret disciples. But looking back at the whole drama of the conflict between Christ and the Pharisees and scribes, a conflict that brought Him to Calvary, we can be astounded that intelligent human beings could reject the eternal Son of god, the Incarnate Word, because they would be inconvenienced or even endangered. But that’s what happened! And it still happens.

The question now is: How many refuse to look at Christ, to take Him seriously, even to read a Gospel, before they decide to drop out of the practice of their faith? How many politicians and would-be leaders deny both the Ten Commandments and the whole teaching of Christ to get elected to some office? How many believing Christians and even clergy symbolically come to Christ by night, like Nicodemus? They don’t open their mouths about many evils that call out to God for judgment.

And finally -- and this is the point of this meditation – how often do you and I fail to bear witness to Him when it involves some inconvenience or embarrassment, however slight? I say that I see, but am I blind to the presence of Christ in so many ways in daily life because it will cost me something – some inconvenience, embarrassment, or rejection? St. Paul said we ought to be glad to suffer for him who suffered so much for us. When we see this, then we see.
The King Crucified and Risen – Meditations on the Passion and Glory of Christ
By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

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