Author John Maxwell, described a leader as ‘one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.’ There are many books written on leadership. The qualities of leaders’ have a huge influence and impact on peoples’ lives. It is good to take time to reflect on how leadership styles affect citizens’ lives on a personal, national and international level. In this time of Covid-19, we see the importance of leadership to guide and implement day-to-day living and to have a vision for the future. It is a well-known fact that ‘without a vision, the people perish.’ Every day during the pandemic people wait to hear the leaders’ decisions on lifting restrictions, opening schools, administration of vaccines etc.
Who is a good leader? Scripture shows many styles of leadership throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus was one who knew the way to the Father, went the way of the cross and showed the way to the disciples. Jesus was more than a leader.
The Church celebrates an important feast today, ‘The Chair of St Peter.’ This feast celebrates Peter as bishop of Rome. The Gospel (Mt 16:13-14) traces the role of Peter’s leadership back to where the encounter between Jesus and Peter took place in Caesarea Philippi
The reading proclaimed at Mass today (1 Peter 5:1-4) comes from St Peter’s first letter. Peter addressed the letter to the communities of the different Roman provinces, which were located in what we know as Turkey today. Peter encourages the people by showing them the example of Christ. Throughout the letter, Peter describes two of the hallmarks of a disciple, persecution and partaking in Christ’s suffering.
Peter states that he is a witness to Christ and his suffering. Through suffering, he hopes to share in Christ’s glory, which is the resurrection. He instructs the elders to shepherd the flock entrusted to him by God. They must lead with a willing and generous heart, not from obligation or duty. They lead by example and service. In that way, their leadership will not be oppressive, abusive or dictatorial. Jesus modelled a servant leadership.
The Gospel (Mt 16:13-14) proclaims the Church, which has faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God as its foundation. Simon, later called Peter proclaims his faith in God. Jesus praises him for acknowledging the faith revealed to him by God the Father. Jesus addressed him as Simon Bar jona (son of John) and because of his faith, Jesus called him Peter the rock. Jesus foresaw that Peter would be a foundation for his Church. The change in name indicates that Peter is receiving a mission. The Church will always have a leader. In the Old Testament, God always chose leaders for his people. Jesus chose Peter as leader. The Church recognises Peter as the first Pope.
When Jesus appointed Peter and his successors as leaders, he ensured that they had the last word about what is or what is not the faith of the Church. In spite of their flawed characters, Christ gave them power and said, ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.’
In the Bible, we get to know Peter as a colourful character through his encounters and experiences with Jesus and the disciples. In prayer and reflection, we learn about discipleship.
There are many resources in the Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé Religious Education programme dealing with the theme of Church, Bible stories about Peter, leadership and discipleship. VERITAS provides free access to helpful online resources including the Children’s Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé e-book.
- Pray St Patrick’s Breastplate/ Lúireach Phádraig
- ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Mark 8:27-9) from Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé (Fifth Class) e-book or from a Bible
- Read Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’
- You may like to logon to the Grow in Love website, read the prayers, and do the online activities related to this story. Sing the song with the video lyric, ‘Who do you say that I am?’
THINK AND REFLECT:
- Name any leaders you know in your country, on the sports field, in the government, on the world stage
- What qualities do leaders require?
- Who do you think is a good leader in your parish, your school, your class or in your club?
- St Peter was the first Pope. Do you know any Bible story about Peter?
- Pope Francis is Pope today. Find out some facts about Pope Francis. Pray for Pope Francis today.
Sr Anne Neylon