Today’s gospel brings to a close the Sermon on the Plain, which has been the subject of our reflection for the past two Sundays. It is Luke’s shorter version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Both sermons are a collection of Jesus’ teachings, particularly on discipleship. We have seen the radical demands of following Jesus as articulated in the beatitudes and in such teachings as loving our enemies and being merciful, like the Father.
In this last portion of the sermon, Jesus directs his words to his followers who would eventually be the teachers and leaders of his Church. Using three vivid images, he warns them to be wary in choosing spiritual guides. Do not follow a blind guide lest you both fall into the pit. Before volunteering to remove a speck from someone’s eye, remove first the log on your own. The credibility of your words depends on the integrity of your character, just as the quality of the fruit depends on the quality of the tree.
Jesus’ words are applicable not only to spiritual guides, but to all who have the responsibility of educating and leading: parents, teachers, media practitioners and public authorities. One can never over-estimate the value of good education and leadership. Our lives and our future are to a great extent shaped by the hands of those who teach and lead us.
The election season has finally begun. Soon, we will elect our leaders, both national and local. The kind of governance and its impact on our life will greatly depend on the kind of leaders we shall put in office. Today’s gospel offers us valuable tips on how to choose the right leaders. The qualities of a good spiritual leader pointed out by Jesus are equally valid (if not, more so) for political leaders. The primary task of a political leader is, after all, to promote and work for the common good of society.
The gospel indicates three particular qualities needed in a good political leader: vision, competence and character.
A leader cannot be blind. He or she has to have a clear vision of where to take his/her followers. His target is precise and so is his path to reach his mark. He has a well-defined roadmap, and he offers a credible and realizable platform to achieve his vision.
He knows what he is proposing for he has the competence and capability needed for the task. He does not campaign on motherhood statements or on some vague promises, devoid of content and direction.
A good leader is a person of integrity and moral character. Jesus tells us, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” The kind of governance we shall have after election will depend on the kind of people we put in government. This is obvious. If we put corrupt and incompetent people in government, we can only expect a government which is equally corrupt and incompetent. If we wish to have an honest and competent government, let us choose honest and competent candidates, men and women of proven probity and ability.
In the end, a true leader is one who is himself a follower of Christ, the Teacher. The qualities of vision, competence and character are fully embodied in Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”*