13 September, Sunday — The End of the Road

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ecc 27:33-28:9
Rm 14:7-9
Mt 18:21-35

Remember the commandments…

As I reflected on today’s readings, I couldn’t help but realise how God was drumming home to me the need to constantly stop and check myself, especially in the area of dealing with my staff. Having had to deal with three resignations last month, I found myself wanting to ‘send everyone off’ with words of wisdom. As their ‘boss’ for a good period of time (from 1, 5 to 8 years), I feel that while we may have come to the end of the road in terms of a work relationship, I would be more than open to continue our journeys as friends.

But deep down, I know that for two of them, this truly is the end of the road. And while I wish them all well, I am extremely concerned because only one of the three, N, has found a job to go to. So the underlying question for myself was, “What did I do? Have I not been a good boss?” Then over lunch, N shared this with me, “You have changed the way you lead over the past 2 years, compared to when we joined you. You no longer jump in to sort out things, and now leave it to the other directors. Those who were used to your way of leading have to change because you changed the way you lead.”

Brothers and sisters, we all know how difficult it is to lead others, especially when you have a diverse group of people. But when we look at Jesus, He models a leadership style that we should perhaps all aspire to. As humans, we all have to change in order to survive, because…. (insert sarcastic, patronising tone)… change is a constant…change is all around us….change is the new normal. But Jesus never changed His style of leadership to suit anyone or the norms of the day. He was always focussed on his mission and obedient to the Father. We, on the other hand, are conditioned to ‘align’ with… (insert your own list of conditions)…and that causes mayhem for those we are in charge of. Then when they decide they’ve had enough, we question why.

Today’s first reading urges us to remember the commandments, and to cloak everything with the love of God. Because only then can we forgive those who we feel have wronged us — whether by ‘abandoning ship’, by speaking ill about us, or by not performing to our expectations. Only then can we overlook any offence — God forbid anyone who commits the same sin against us ever again — and forgive seventy-seven times. As humans, many of us subscribe to a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ mode of leadership. Therein lies the problem — we label, we judge, and we condemn; not exactly the best starting point if we want start forgiving others. And when it comes to ministry, those of us who take our ‘work self’ into ministry are only exacerbating the situation. Because if we approach every person or meeting without ‘remembering the commandments’, it is going to end up causing more issues. We will be placing unrealistic expectations on others and probably making unrealistic demands as well. So where do we — those of us who are leading ministries or groups — find our grounding? How can we ensure that we ourselves don’t end up being the toxic, negative ones in our journey with ministry?

I take comfort from the psalmists who proclaim that, “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.” If God himself is ever willing to forgive and ‘remove our sins’, we can only pray that He floods our hearts with the same compassion and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter what they do or say to hurt/injure us. Because in harbouring resentment and seeking revenge, we only make matters worse. Though it is easier said than done, forgiving our brothers and sisters each and every time is indeed the better route to take as we journey through life. That is how we should ‘remember the commandments’. 

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know you are merciful and full of love for us. Help us to also forgive others that wrong us, that slander us, that harbour ill will towards us. Open up our hearts so that we have the courage to forgive, time and again.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Lord, for never counting the cost of our sins and for always listening to our pleas.

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