Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time Year 2
(Ez 34:1-11; Mt 20:1-16)
A story was told about a shopkeeper once fell behind in his payments to one of his vendors. To further complicate matters, he completely ignored three increasingly sharp letters demanding payment. Finally, the vendor appeared in person with a sheaf of unpaid bills under his arm. Holding them out before the shopkeeper, he demanded full payment immediately. To the vendor’s surprise, the shopkeeper didn’t hesitate or ask for more time. He simply sat down and wrote out a check, paying him in full. “Is this going to cash?” the vendor asked, suspicious. “Oh, yes,” said the shopkeeper. “Then why didn’t you just send me a check several weeks ago and save us both this unpleasant visit?” cried the vendor. “Well, at first I didn’t have the cash,” the store owner admitted, “but I copied your letters and mailed them out to people who owed me. Everybody paid up. Your letters worked so well, I just kept stalling on payment to you in hopes that I might eventually have a full set of your letters for use in my own business!” The one who told this story commented that “pushing people may result in payment, but not in building good relationships. Be diligent in your own work, never at the expense of another.” (taken from God’s Devotional Book for Leaders, p. 128-129) Human relationships are essential in our daily undertaking. Things can be accomplished when relationships are well. When work are just done for money, it would be completed to the minimum. It is only in love, care, concern, charity, and compassion shall any undertaking be maximized and excellently carried out. Both readings today speak of leadership that is executed through benevolent relationships and charity. The Prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading today, was critical of the shepherds in Israel during his days. As shepherds were leaders, it was expected from them to feed the people, care for them and not take advantage of them. However, what happened was the opposite which made God to act against them because instead of feeding the people, they fed themselves. The kings, the leaders, priests and advisors were self-centered and they were not after the welfare of the community. This, eventually prompted the prophet to pass on warnings on them. In the same way, Jesus, in the Gospel related a parable which contained the virtue of generosity as the central theme. God builds relationships through charity and thus revealing the nature of God who is never outdone in generosity. When relationships are built on charity and generosity, those relationships will indeed bear fruit and will last.
1. Relationship by reification- relationships are built by witnessing and projecting good examples. Things should not be left only in the mind and words, but they have to be actualized and realized. The eyes of a person are powerful enough to see and learn. Thus, a good act impresses the person and a good act is imitated. Without even speaking of a single word, a person has the capacity to learn, to imitate, and to be a good leader by fostering good examples. There is an old saying that differentiates a manager from a leader. It says “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.” Well, it would be better if a person possesses leadership and the sense of management. The Lord warned his people through the prophet that the nature of good shepherds is that they should care for the sheep and not take advantage of them for personal gain. The prophet spoke the word of God to Israel saying “you have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.” Wicked relationships create wicked leadership.
2. Relationship by formation- the quality of relationship and leadership rests on how people are formed. There are qualities that good relationships and leadership elicit: responsibility, truthfulness, courage, trust, humility, creativity, prudence, magnanimity, etc. These are virtues that to be acquired and learned. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel did not fail to remind the people of Israel and their shepherds about listening to the Word of God. And now, the prophet has to speak to them, carrying God’s Word and His intention. Rectification of their deeds and the renewal of their hearts should ultimately come from the formation through the Word of God. At the outset, he prophet called on them “Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:” this provided the opportunity for conversion and formation among the people. Leadership, if it has to reach its summit and fullness, has to be shaped by the Word of God, as it is a gift that has to be shaped and guided by the grace of God. No fullness of leadership can be achieved overnight but gradually be shaped by systematic process of formation. The Second Vatican Council says the word of God is “the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.” (DV 21)
3. Relationship by vocation- Good relationships are shaped by one’s calling and giftedness. All of us, by virtue of being a “social animal” and man, in essence is a totality of social relations. According to Karl Marx, man has the capacity to be related with other human beings. We all build relationships and we can either choose to build good or bad connections. But by virtue of our call to charity and generosity we build good relationships. Jesus exemplified this in the parable which we read today, where the landowner gave the same daily wage to those who were hired early and those who came late. What Jesus was after of was the quality of relationships that is required to be worthy of the Kingdom. It is not the amount or wage that counts ultimately but the relationship that we build. Charity goes beyond the minimum requirement of a relationship which is justice. The person who desires good relationships has also to thirst for charity in himself that he also may be able to socially deliver justice to the people. Pius XI says that social charity is the soul of the society. (Quadresimo Anno, no.88) If one exercises well his vocation as a gift from God, then good relationships flow naturally from him because “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). Thus, both horizontal and vertical relationships are solidly established because God Himself is the source of our vocation to love. Let us allow ourselves encounter God and fulfill our primordial aspiration and yearning of our souls.
“mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him.”